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Full text of "The Harvard classics Volume 37"

ST. MICHAEL'S COLLEGE 

TORONTO, CANADA 




LIBRARY 




PRESENTED BY 



j. J. McKnight 







tiU 










THE HARVARD CLASSICS 



The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 



THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 



English Philosophers 

OF THE SEVENTEENTH AND 
EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 

Locke Berkeley Hume 



With Introductions and Notes 
Volume 37 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 

NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1910 
BY P. F. COLLIER & SON 

MANUFACTURED IN U. S. A. 




MAY 19 1956 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

SOME THOUGHTS CONCERNING EDUCATION . 9 

BY JOHN LOCKE 

THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN HYLAS AND PHILONOUS IN OPPOSITION 

TO SCEPTICS AND ATHEISTS .189 

BY GEORGE BERKELEY 

AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 289 

BY DAVID HUME 

*I. Of the different Species of Philosophy . 289 

II. Of the Origin of Ideas .... 299 

III. Of the Association of Ideas ... - 34 

IV. Sceptical Doubts concerning the Operations of the Under- 

standing 36 

V. Sceptical Solution of these Doubts 319 

VI. Of Probability 33 2 

VII. Of the Idea of necessary Connexion 335 

VIII. Of Liberty and Necessity . 35 ' 

IX. Of the Reason of Animals . . 37 l 

X. Of Miracles .... 375 

XI. Of a particular Providence and of a future State 393 

XII. Of the academical or sceptical Philosophy . 407 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

JOHN LOCKE was born near Bristol, England, on August 29, 1632; and 
was educated at Westminster School, where Dryden was his contem- 
porary, and at Christ Church, Oxford. Of the discipline then in vogue 
in either institution, the future educational theorist had no high opinion, 
as may be gathered from allusions in the present treatise; yet, after 
taking his master's degree in 1658, he became tutor of his college, and 
lecturer in Greek and rhetoric. After a visit to the Continent in 1665, 
as secretary to an embassy, he returned to Oxford and took up the study 
of medicine. He became attached, as friend and physician, to Lord Ash- 
ley, afterward the first Earl of Shaftesbury; and while this nobleman was 
Lord Chancellor, Locke held the office of Secretary of Presentations. 

Shaftesbury went out of office in 1673, and two years later Locke went 
to France in search of health, supporting himself by acting as tutor to 
the son of Sir John Banks, and as physician to the wife of the English 
Ambassador at Paris. In 1679, Shaftesbury, being again in power, re- 
called Locke to England. He reluctantly obeyed, and remained in 
attendance on his patron, assisting him in political matters and super- 
intending the education of his grandson, the future author of "Char- 
acteristics," till Shaftesbury's political fortunes finally collapsed, and both 
men took refuge in Holland. 

Locke's first two years in Holland were spent in traveling and in inter- 
course with scholars; but in 1685 the Dutch Government was asked to 
deliver him up to the English as a traitor, and he was forced to go into 
hiding till a pardon was granted by James II in 1686, though there is 
no evidence of his having been guilty of any crime beyond his friendship 
with Shaftesbury. 

It was not till now, at the age of fifty-four, that Locke began to pub- 
lish the results of a lifetime of study and thought. An epitome of his 
great "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" was printed in his 
friend Le Clerc's "Bibliotheque Universelle," and the work was finally 
published in full in 1690. It was from Holland also that he wrote, as 
advice to a friend on the bringing up of his son, those letters which were 
later printed as "Thoughts Concerning Education." 

During his exile Locke had come into friendly relations with his 
future sovereigns, William and Mary; and when the Revolution was 
accomplished he came back to England with the Princess in 1689. He 
was offered the Ambassadorship to Prussia, but declined on account of 



4 INTRODUCTION 

his weak health and because he thought he was not valiant enough in 
strong drink to be Ambassador at the court of the Elector of Branden- 
burg; so he stayed at home and published his "Essay." 

The remainder of his life was spent chiefly at the home of his friends, 
the Cudworths and Mashams, at Gates in Essex. He held the office of 
Commissioner of Appeals, and was for some years a member of the 
Council of Trade and Plantations, a position which led to his occupying 
himself with problems of economics. At Gates he had the opportunity 
of putting his educational theories into practise in the training of the 
grandson of his host, and the results confirmed his belief in his methods. 
He died at Gates, October 27, 1704. 

It has been noted that while at school and at the university Locke 
disapproved the educational methods employed; and this independence of 
judgment marked him through life. In medicine he denounced the 
scholasticism which still survived and which in various branches of learn- 
ing had already been attacked by Bacon and Hobbes; and he advocated 
the experimental methods adopted by his friend Sydenham, the great 
physician of the day. In educational theory and method he held ad- 
vanced opinions, insisting especially on the importance of guarding the 
formation of habits, and on training in wisdom and virtue rather than 
on information as the main object of education. Many of his ideas are 
still among the objects aimed at, rather than achieved, by educational 
reformers. It will be observed from the following "Thoughts" that they 
bear the mark of their original purpose, the individual education of a 
gentleman's son, not the formation of a school system. 

But it is as a philosopher that Locke's fame is greatest. He was the 
ancestor of the English empirical school, and he exercised a profound 
influence on philosophic thought throughout Europe. Almost all the 
main lines of the intellectual activity of the eighteenth century in Eng- 
land lead back to Locke, and the skepticism of Hume is the logical 
development of the principles laid down in the "Essay Concerning 
Human Understanding." 



DEDICATION 

To EDWARD CLARKE, of Chipley, Esq. 
SIR: 

THESE thoughts concerning education, which now come abroad into 
the world, do of right belong to you, being written several years since 
for your sake, and are no other than what you have already by you in 
my letters. I have so little vary'd any thing, but only the order of what 
was sent you at different times, and on several occasions, that the reader 
will easily find, in the familiarity and fashion of the stile, that they were 
rather the private conversation of two friends, than a discourse design'd 
for publick view. 

The importunity of friends is the common apology for publications 
men are afraid to own themselves forward to. But you know I can truly 
say, that if some, who having heard of these papers of mine, had not 
press'd to see them, and afterwards to have them printed, they had lain 
dormant still in that privacy they were design'd for. But those, whose 
judgment I defer much to, telling me, that they were persuaded, that 
this rough draught of mine might be of some use, if made more publick, 
touch'd upon what will always be very prevalent with me: for I think 
it every man's indispensable duty, to do all the service he can to his 
country; and I see not what difference he puts between himself and his 
cattle, who lives without that thought. This subject is of so great con- 
cernment, and a right way of education is of so general advantage, that 
did I find my abilities answer my wishes, I should not have needed 
exhortations or importunities from others. However, the meanness of 
these papers, and my just distrust of them, shall not keep me, by the 
shame of doing so little, from contributing my mite, when there is no 
more requir'd of me than my throwing it into the publick receptacle. 
And if there be any more of their size and notions, who lik'd them so 
well, that they thought them worth printing, I may flatter myself they 
will not be lost labour to every body. 

I myself have been consulted of late by so many, who profess them- 
selves at a loss how to breed their children, and the early corruption of 
youth is now become so general a complaint, that he cannot be thought 



DEDICATION 

wholly impertinent, who brings the consideration of this matter on the 
stage, and offers something, if it be but to excite others, or afford matter 
of correction: for errors in education should be less indulg'd than any. 
These, like faults in the first concoction, that are never mended in the 
second or third, carry their afterwards incorrigible taint with them thro' 
all the parts and stations of life. 

I am so far from being conceited of any thing I have here offer'd, that 

1 should not be sorry, even for your sake, if some one abler and fitter 
for such a task would in a just treatise of education, suited to our English 
gentry, rectify the mistakes I have made in this; it being much more 
desirable to me, that young gentlemen should be put into (that which 
every one ought to be solicitous about) the best way of being form'd 
and instructed, than that my opinion should be receiv'd concerning it. 
You will, however, in the mean time bear me witness, that the method 
here propos'd has had no ordinary effects upon a gentleman's son it was 
not design'd for. I will not say the good temper of the child did not very 
much contribute to it; but this I think you and the parents are satisfy 'd 
of, that a contrary usage, according to the ordinary disciplining of chil- 
dren, would not have mended that temper, nor have brought him to be 
in love with his book, to take a pleasure in learning, and to desire, as 
he does, to be taught more than those about him think fit always to teach 
him. 

But my business is not to recommend this treatise to you, whose 
opinion of it I know already; nor it to the world, either by your opinion 
or patronage. The well educating of their children is so much the duty 
and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so 
much depends on it, that I would have every one lay it seriously to heart; 
and after having well examin'd and distinguish'd what fancy, custom, or 
reason advises in the case, set his helping hand to promote every where 
that way of training up youth, with regard to their several conditions, 
which is the easiest, shortest, and likeliest to produce virtuous, useful, 
and able men in their distinct callings; tho' that most to be taken care 
of is the gentleman's calling. For if those of that rank are by their educa- 
tion once set right, they will quickly bring all the rest into order. 

I know not whether I have done more than shewn my good wishes 
towards it in this short discourse; such as it is, the world now has it, 
and if there be any thing in it worth their acceptance, they owe their 
thanks to you for it. My affection to you gave the first rise to it, and I am 
pleas'd, that I can leave to posterity this mark of the friendship that has 
been between us. For I know no greater pleasure in this life, nor a better 



DEDICATION 7 

remembrance to be left behind one, than a long continued friendship 
with an honest, useful, and worthy man, and lover of his country. ! 
am, Sir, 

Your most humble and most faithful servant, 

JOHN LOCKE. 
March 7, 1692 [i.e. 169^]. 



SOME THOUGHTS 
CONCERNING EDUCATION 

i. Jl SOUND mind in a sound body, is a short, but full de- 
/-\ scription of a happy state in this world. He that has 
JL JL these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants 
either of them, will be but little the better for any thing else. Men's 
happiness or misery is most part of their own making. He, whose 
mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he, whose 
body is crazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it. I confess, 
there are some men's constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and 
well fram'd by nature, that they need not much assistance from 
others; but by the strength of their natural genius, they are from their 
cradles carried towards what is excellent; and by the privilege of their 
happy constitutions, are able to do wonders. But examples of this kind 
are but few; and I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, 
nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by 
their education. 'Tis that which makes the great difference in man- 
kind. The little, or almost insensible impressions on our tender in- 
fancies, have very important and lasting consequences: and there 
'tis, as in the fountains of some rivers, where a gentle application of 
the hand turns the flexible waters in channels, that make them take 
quite contrary courses; and by this direction given them at first in the 
source, they receive different tendencies, and arrive at last at very 
remote and distant places. 

2. I imagine the minds of children as easily turn'd this or that 
way, as water it self: and though this be the principal part, and our 
main care should be about the inside, yet the clay-cottage is not to 
be neglected. I shall therefore begin with the case, and consider first 
the health of the body, as that which perhaps you may rather expect 
from that study I have been thought more peculiarly to have apply'd 
my self to; and that also which will be soonest dispatch'd, as lying, 
if I guess not amiss, in a very little compass. 

9 



10 JOHN LOCKE 

3. How necessary health is to our business and happiness; and 
how requisite a strong constitution, able to endure hardships and 
fatigue, is to one that will make any figure in the world, is too ob- 
vious to need any proof. 

4. The consideration I shall here have of health, shall be, not 
what a physician ought to do with a sick and crazy child; but what 
the parents, without the help of physick, should do for the preserva- 
tion and improvement of an healthy, or at least not sickly constitution 
in their children. And this perhaps might be all dispatch'd in this 
one short rule, viz. That gentlemen should use their children, as the 
honest farmers and substantial yeomen do theirs. But because the 
mothers possibly may think this a little too hard, and the fathers too 
short, I shall explain my self more particularly; only laying down this 
as a general and certain observation for the women to consider, viz. 
That most children's constitutions are either spoil'd, or at least 
harm'd, by cockering and tenderness. 

5. The first thing to be taken care of, is, that children be not 
too warmly clad or cover' d, winter or summer. The face when we 
are born, is no less tender than any other part of the body. 'Tis use 
alone hardens it, and makes it more able to endure the cold. And 
therefore the Scythian philosopher gave a very significant answer to 
the Athenian, who wonder'd how he could go naked in frost and 
snow. How, said the Scythian, can you endure your face expos' d to 
the sharp winter air? My face is usd to it, said the Athenian. Thint^ 
me all face, reply'd the Scythian. Our bodies will endure any thing, 
that from the beginning they are accustom'd to. 

An eminent instance of this, though in the contrary excess of heat, 
being to our present purpose, to shew what use can do, I shall set 
down in the author's words, as I meet with it in a late ingenious 
voyage. 

"The heats, says he, are more violent in Malta, than in any part of 
Europe: they exceed those of Rome itself, and are perfectly stifling; and 
so much the more, because there are seldom any cooling breezes here. 
This makes the common people as black as gypsies: but yet the peasants 
defy the sun; they work on in the hottest part of the day, without inter- 
mission, or sheltering themselves from his scorching rays. This has 
convinc'd me, that nature can bring itself to many things, which seem 
impossible, provided we accustom ourselves from our infancy. The 
Malteses do so, who harden the bodies of their children, and reconcile 



FEET 1 1 

them to the heat, by making them go stark naked, without shirt, 
drawers, or any thing on their heads, from their cradles till they are ten 
years old." 

Give me leave therefore to advise you not to fence too carefully 
against the cold of this our climate. There are those in England, 
who wear the same clothes winter and summer, and that without 
any inconvenience, or more sense of cold than others find. But if the 
mother will needs have an allowance for frost and snow, for fear of 
harm, and the father, for fear of censure, be sure let not his winter 
clothing be too warm: And amongst other things, remember, that 
when nature has so well covered his head with hair, and strengthen'd 
it with a year or two's age, that he can run about by day without a 
cap, it is best that by night a child should also lie without one; there 
being nothing that more exposes to headaches, colds, catarrhs, 
coughs, and several other diseases, than keeping the head warm. 

6. I have said he here, because the principal aim of my discourse 
is, how a young gentleman should be brought up from his infancy, 
which in all things will not so perfectly suit the education of daugh- 
ters; though where the difference of sex requires different treat- 
ment, 'twill be no hard matter to distinguish. 

7. I will also advise his feet to be wash'd every day in cold water, 
and to have his shoes so thin, that they might leak and let in water, 
whenever he comes near it. Here, I fear I shall have the mistress and 
maids too against me. One will think it too filthy, and the other 
perhaps too much pains, to make clean his stockings. But yet truth 
will have it, that his health is much more worth than all such consid- 
erations, and ten times as much more. And he that considers how 
mischievous and mortal a thing taking wet in the feet is, to those 
who have been bred nicely, will wish he had, with the poor people's 
children, gone bare-foot, who, by that means, come to be so reconcil'd 
by custom to wet in their feet, that they take no more cold or harm 
by it, than if they were wet in their hands. And what is it, I pray, 
that makes this great difference between the hands and the feet in 
others, but only custom ? I doubt not, but if a man from his cradle 
had been always us'd to go bare-foot, whilst his hands were con- 
stantly wrapt up in warm mittins, and cover'd with hand-shoes, as 
the Dutch call gloves; I doubt not, I say, but such a custom would 
make taking wet in his hands as dangerous to him, as now taking 



12 JOHN LOCKE 

wet in their feet is to a great many others. The way to prevent this, 
is, to have his shoes made so as to leak water, and his feet wash'd 
constantly every day in cold water. It is recommendable for its clean- 
liness; but that which I aim at in it, is health; and therefore I limit 
it not precisely to any time of the day. I have known it us'd every 
night with very good success, and that all the winter, without the 
omitting it so much as one night in extreme cold weather; when 
thick ice cover'd the water, the child bathed his legs and feet in it, 
though he was of an age not big enough to rub and wipe them him- 
self, and when he began this custom was puling and very tender. 
But the great end being to harden those parts by a frequent and fa- 
miliar use of cold water, and thereby to prevent the mischiefs that 
usually attend accidental taking wet in the feet in those who are bred 
otherwise, I think it may be left to the prudence and convenience 
of the parents, to chuse either night or morning. The time I deem 
indifferent, so the thing be effectually done. The health and hardi- 
ness procured by it, would be a good purchase at a much dearer rate. 
To which if I add the preventing of corns, that to some men would 
be a very valuable consideration. But begin first in the spring with 
luke-warm, and so colder and colder every time, till in a few days 
you come to perfectly cold water, and then continue it so winter 
and summer. For it is to be observed in this, as in all other altera- 
tions from our ordinary way of living, the changes must be made by 
gentle and insensible degrees; and so we may bring our bodies to any 
thing, without pain, and without danger. 

How fond mothers are like to receive this doctrine, is not hard to 
foresee. What can it be less, than to murder their tender babes, to 
use them thus? What! put their feet in cold water in frost and snow, 
when all one can do is little enough to keep them warm ? A little to 
remove their fears by examples, without which the plainest reason is 
seldom hearken'd to : Seneca tells us of himself, Ep. 53, and 83, that 
he used to bathe himself in cold spring-water in the midst of winter. 
This, if he had not thought it not only tolerable, but healthy too, 
he would scarce have done, in an exorbitant fortune, that could well 
have borne the expence of a warm bath, and in an age (for he was 
then old) that would have excused greater indulgence. If we think 
his stoical principles led him to this severity, let it be so, that this sect 



FEET 13 

reconciled cold water to his sufferance. What made it agreeable to 
his health? For that was not impair'd by this hard usage. But what 
shall we say to Horace, who warm'd not himself with the reputation 
of any sect, and least of all affected stoical austerities ? yet he assures 
us, he was wont in the winter season to bathe himself in cold water. 
But, perhaps, Italy will be thought much warmer than England, and 
the dullness of their waters not to come near ours in winter. If the 
rivers of Italy are warmer, those of Germany and Poland are much 
colder, than any in this our country, and yet in these, the Jews, both 
men and women, bathe all over, at all seasons of the year, without 
any prejudice to their health. And every one is not apt to believe it is 
miracle, or any peculiar virtue of St. Winifred's Well, that makes the 
cold waters of that famous spring do no harm to the tender bodies 
that bathe in it. Every one is now full of the miracles done by cold 
baths on decay'd and weak constitutions, for the recovery of health 
and strength; and therefore they cannot be impracticable or intol- 
erable for the improving and hardening the bodies of those who are 
in better circumstances. 

If these examples of grown men be not thought yet to reach the 
case of children, but that they may be judg'd still to be too tender, 
and unable to bear such usage, let them examine what the Germans 
of old, and the Irish now, do to them, and they will find, that infants 
too, as tender as they are thought, may, without any danger, endure 
bathing, not only of their feet, but of their whole bodies, in cold water. 
And there are, at this day, ladies in the Highlands of Scotland who 
use this discipline to their children in the midst of winter, and find 
that cold water does them no harm, even when there is ice in it. 

8. I shall not need here to mention swimming, when he is of 
an age able to learn, and has any one to teach him. Tis that saves 
many a man's life; and the Romans thought it so necessary, that they 
rank'd it with letters; and it was the common phrase to mark one 
ill-educated, and good for nothing, that he had neither learnt to 
read nor to swim: Nee literas didicit nee nature. But, besides the 
gaining a skill which may serve him at need, the advantages to health 
by often bathing in cold water during the heat of summer, are so 
many, that I think nothing need be said to encourage it; provided 
this one caution be us'd, that he never go into the water when exer- 



14 JOHN LOCKE 

else has at all warm'd him, or left any emotion in his blood or pulse. 

9. Another thing that is of great advantage to every one's health, 
but especially children's, is to be much in the open air, and as little as 
may be by the fire, even in winter. By this he will accustom himself 
also to heat and cold, shine and rain; all which if a man's body will 
not endure, it will serve him to very little purpose in this world; 
and when he is grown up, it is too late to begin to use him to it. 
It must be got early, and by degrees. Thus the body may be brought 
to bear almost any thing. If I should advise him to play in the wind 
and sun without a hat, I doubt whether it could be borne. There 
would a thousand objections be made against it, which at last would 
amount to no more, in truth, than being sun-burnt. And if my 
young master be to be kept always in the shade, and never expos'd 
to the sun and wind for fear of his complexion, it may be a good way 
to make him a beau, but not a man of business. And altho' greater 
regard be to be had to beauty in the daughters; yet I will take the 
liberty to say, that the more they are in the air, without prejudice to 
their faces, the stronger and healthier they will be; and the nearer 
they come to the hardships of their brothers in their education, the 
greater advantage will they receive from it all the remaining part 
of their lives. 

10. Playing in the open air has but this one danger in it, that I 
know; and that is, that when he is hot with running up and down, 
he should sit or lie down on the cold or moist earth. This I grant; 
and drinking cold drink, when they are hot with labour or exer- 
cise, brings more people to the grave, or to the brink of it, by fevers, 
and other diseases, than anything I know. These mischiefs are 
easily enough prevented whilst he is little, being then seldom out 
of sight. And if, during his childhood, he be constantly and rigor- 
ously kept from sitting on the ground, or drinking any cold liquor 
whilst he is hot, the custom of forbearing, grown into habit, will help 
much to preserve him, when he is no longer under his maid's or 
tutor's eye. This is all I think can be done in the case: for, as years 
increase, liberty must come with them; and in a great many things 
he must be trusted to his own conduct, since there cannot always be 
a guard upon him, except what you have put into his own mind by 
good principles, and establish'd habits, which is the best and surest, 



HABITS 15 

and therefore most to be taken care of. For, from repeated cautions 
and rules, never so often inculcated, you are not to expect any thing 
either in this, or any other case, farther than practice has establish'd 
them into habits. 

ii. One thing the mention of the girls brings into my mind, 
which must not be forgot; and that is, that your son's clothes be 
never made strait, especially about the breast. Let nature have scope 
to fashion the body as she thinks best. She works of herself a great 
deal better and exacter than we can direct her. And if women were 
themselves to frame the bodies of their children in their wombs, as 
they often endeavour to mend their shapes when they are out, we 
should as certainly have no perfect children born, as we have few 
well-shap'd that are strait-lac 'd, or much tamper'd with. This con- 
sideration should, methinks, keep busy people (I will not say ig- 
norant nurses and bodice-makers) from meddling in a matter they 
understand not; and they should be afraid to put nature out of her 
way in fashioning the parts, when they know not how the least and 
meanest is made. And yet I have seen so many instances of children 
receiving great harm from strait-lacing, that I cannot but conclude 
there are other creatures as well as monkeys, who, little wiser than 
they, destroy their young ones by senseless fondness, and too much 
embracing. 

12. Narrow breasts, short and stinking breath, ill lungs, and 
crookedness, are natural and almost constant effects of hard bodice, 
and clothes that pinch. That way of making slender wastes, and fine 
shapes, serves but the more effectually to spoil them. Nor can there 
indeed but be disproportion in the parts, when the nourishment pre- 
pared in the several offices of the body cannot be distributed as nature 
designs. And therefore what wonder is it, if, it being laid where it 
can, on some part not so braced, it often makes a shoulder or hip 
higher or bigger than its just proportion? 'Tis generally known, 
that the women of China, (imagining I know not what kind of 
beauty in it) by bracing and binding them hard from their infancy, 
have very little feet. I saw lately a pair of China shoes, which I was 
told were for a grown woman: they were so exceedingly dispropor- 
tion'd to the feet of one of the same age among us, that they would 
scarce have been big enough for one of our little girls. Besides this, 



l6 JOHN LOCKE 

'tis observ'd, that their women are also very little, and short-liv'd; 
whereas the men are of the ordinary stature of other men, and live 
to a proportionable age. These defects in the female sex in that coun- 
try, are by some imputed to the unreasonable binding of their feet, 
whereby the free circulation of the blood is hinder'd, and the growth 
and health of the whole body suffers. And how often do we see, that 
some small part of the foot being injur'd by a wrench or a blow, 
the whole leg or thigh thereby lose their strength and nourishment, 
and dwindle away? How much greater inconveniences may we 
expect, when the thorax, wherein is placed the heart and seat of life, 
is unnaturally compress d, and hinder'd from its due expansion? 

13. As for his diet, it ought to be very plain and simple; and, if I 
might advise, flesh should be forborne as long as he is in coats, or at 
least till he is two or three years old. But whatever advantage this 
may be to his present and future health and strength, I fear it will 
hardly be consented to by parents, misled by the custom of eating 
too much flesh themselves, who will be apt to think their children, 
as they do themselves, in danger to be starv'd, if they have not flesh 
at least twice a-day. This I am sure, children would breed their teeth 
with much less danger, be freer from diseases whilst they were little, 
and lay the foundations of an healthy and strong constitution much 
surer, if they were not cramm'd so much as they are by fond mothers 
and foolish servants, and were kept wholly from flesh the first three 
or four years of their lives. 

But if my young master must needs have flesh, let it be but once 
a day, and of one sort at a meal. Plain beef, mutton, veal, &c. without 
other sauce than hunger, is best; and great care should be used, that 
he eat bread plentifully, both alone and with every thing else; and 
whatever he eats that is solid, make him chew it well. We English 
are often negligent herein; from whence follow indigestion, and 
other great inconveniences. 

14. For breakfast and supper, mil\, mil\-pottage , water-gruel, 
flummery, and twenty other things, that we are wont to make in 
England, are very fit for children; only, in all these, let care be taken 
that they be plain, and without much mixture, and very sparingly 
season'd with sugar, or rather none at all; especially all spice, and 
other things that may heat the blood, are carefully to be avoided. 



DIET I? 

Be sparing also of salt in the seasoning of all his victuals, and use 
him not to high-season'd meats. Our palates grow into a relish and 
liking of the seasoning and cookery which by custom they are set to; 
and an over-much use of salt, besides that it occasions thirst, and 
over-much drinking, has other ill effects upon the body. I should 
think that a good piece of well-made and well-bak'd brown bread, 
sometimes with, and sometimes without butter or cheese, would be 
often the best breakfast for my young master. I am sure 'tis as whole- 
some, and will make him as strong a man as greater delicacies; and 
if he be used to it, it will be as pleasant to him. If he at any time calls 
for victuals between meals, use him to nothing but dry bread. If he 
be hungry more than wanton, bread alone will down; and if he be 
not hungry, 'tis not fit he should eat. By this you will obtain two 
good effects: i. That by custom he will come to be in love with 
bread; for, as I said, our palates and stomachs too are pleased with 
the things we are used to. 2. Another good you will gain hereby is, 
that you will not teach him to eat more nor oftener than nature 
requires. I do not think that all people's appetites are alike; some 
have naturally stronger, and some weaker stomachs. But this I think, 
that many are made gormands and gluttons by custom, that were 
not so by nature: and I see in some countries, men as lusty and 
strong, that eat but two meals a-day, as others that have set their 
stomachs by a constant usage, like larums, to call on them for four 
or five. The Romans usually fasted till supper, the only set meal 
even of those who eat more than once a-day; and those who us'd 
breakfast, as some did, at eight, some at ten, others at twelve of the 
clock, and some later, neither eat flesh, nor had any thing made ready 
for them. Augustus, when the greatest monarch on the earth, tells 
us, he took a bit of dry bread in his chariot. And Seneca, in his 83rd 
Epistle, giving an account how he managed himself, even when he 
was old, and his age permitted indulgence, says, that he used to eat 
a piece of dry bread for his dinner, without the formality of sitting to 
it, tho' his estate would as well have paid for a better meal (had 
health requir'd it) as any subject's in England, were it doubled. 
The masters of the world were bred up with this spare diet; and the 
young gentlemen of Rome felt no want of strength or spirit, because 
they eat but once a day. Or if it happen'd by chance, that any one 



1 8 JOHN LOCKE 

could not fast so long as till supper, their only set meal, he took noth- 
ing but a bit of dry bread, or at most a few raisins, or some such 
slight thing with it, to stay his stomach. This part of temperance 
was found so necessary both for health and business, that the custom 
of only one meal a day held out against that prevailing luxury which 
their Eastern conquests and spoils had brought in amongst them; 
and those who had given up their old frugal eating, and made feasts, 
yet began them not till the evening. And more than one set meal 
a-day was thought so monstrous, that it was a reproach as low down 
as Cesar's time, to make an entertainment, or sit down to a full 
table, till towards sun-set; and therefore, if it would not be thought 
too severe, I should judge it most convenient that my young master 
should have nothing but bread too for breakfast. You cannot 
imagine of what force custom is; and I impute a great part of our 
diseases in England, to our eating too much flesh, and too little bread. 
15. As to his meals, I should think it best, that as much as it can 
be conveniently avoided, they should not be kept constantly to an 
hour : for when custom has fix'd his eating to certain stated periods, 
his stomach will expect victuals at the usual hour, and grow peevish 
if he passes it; either fretting itself into a troublesome excess, or flag- 
ging into a downright want of appetite. Therefore I would have no 
time kept constantly to for his breakfast, dinner and supper, but 
rather vary'd almost every day. And if betwixt these, which I call 
meals, he will eat, let him have, as often as he calls for it, good dry 
bread. If any one think this too hard and sparing a diet for a child, 
let them know, that a child will never starve nor dwindle for want 
of nourishment, who, besides flesh at dinner, and spoon-meat, or 
some such other thing, at supper, may have good bread and beer 
as often as he has a stomach. For thus, upon second thoughts, I 
should judge it best for children to be order'd. The morning is gen- 
erally design'd for study, to which a full stomach is but an ill prep- 
aration. Dry bread, though the best nourishment, has the least 
temptation; and no body would have a child cramm'd at breakfast, 
who has any regard to his mind or body, and would not have him 
dull and unhealthy. Nor let any one think this unsuitable to one of 
estate and condition. A gentleman in any age ought to be so bred, 
as to be fitted to bear arms, and be a soldier. But he that in this, 



MEALS 19 

breeds his son so, as i he design'd him to sleep over his life in the 
plenty and ease of a full fortune he intends to leave him, little con- 
siders the examples he has seen, or the age he lives in. 

1 6. His drin\ should be only small beer; and that too he should 
never be suffer'd to have between meals, but after he had eat a piece 
of bread. The reasons why I say this are these. 

17. i. More fevers and surfeits are got by people's drinking 
when they are hot, than by any one thing I know. Therefore, if by 
play he be hot and dry, bread will ill go down; and so if he cannot 
have drin\ but upon that condition, he will be forced to forbear; for, 
if he be very hot, he should by no means drin\; at least a good piece 
of bread first to be eaten, will gain time to warm the beer blood-hot, 
which then he may drink safely. If he be very dry, it will go down 
so warm'd, and quench his thirst better; and if he will not drink 
it so warm'd, abstaining will not hurt him. Besides, this will teach 
him to forbear, which is an habit of greatest use for health of body 
and mind too. 

1 8. 2. Not being permitted to drin\ without eating, will pre- 
vent the custom of having the cup often at his nose; a dangerous be- 
ginning, and preparation to good-fellowship. Men often bring habit- 
ual hunger and thirst on themselves by custom. And if you please to 
try, you may, though he be wean'd from it, bring him by use to such 
a necessity again of drinking in the night, that he will not be able to 
sleep without it. It being the lullaby used by nurses to still crying 
children, I believe mothers generally find some difficulty to wean 
their children from drinking in the night, when they first take them 
home. Believe it, custom prevails as much by day as by night; and 
you may, if you please, bring any one to be thirsty every hour. 

I once liv'd in a house, where, to appease a froward child, they 
gave him drin\ as often as he cry'd; so that he was constantly bib- 
bing. And tho' he could not speak, yet he drank more in twenty-four 
hours than I did. Try it when you please, you may with small, as 
well as with strong beer, drink your self into a drought. The great 
thing to be minded in education is, what habits you settle; and there- 
fore in this, as all other things, do not begin to make any thing cus- 
tomary, the practice whereof you would not have continue and in- 
crease. It is convenient for health and sobriety, to drin\ no more than 



2O JOHN LOCKE 

natural thirst requires; and he that eats not salt meats, nor drinks 
strong drink, will seldom thirst between meals, unless he has been 
accustom'd to such unseasonable drinking. 

19. Above all, take great care that he seldom, if ever, taste any 
wine or strong drin\. There is nothing so ordinarily given children 
in England, and nothing so destructive to them. They ought never 
to drin\ any strong liquor but when they need it as a cordial, and 
the doctor prescribes it. And in this case it is, that servants are most 
narrowly to be watch'd and most severely to be reprehended when 
they transgress. Those mean sort of people, placing a great part of 
their happiness in strong drin\, are always forward to make court 
to my young master by offering him that which they love best them- 
selves: and finding themselves made merry by it, they foolishly 
think 'twill do the child no harm. This you are carefully to have your 
eye upon, and restrain with all the skill and industry you can, there 
being nothing that lays a surer foundation of mischief, both to body 
and mind than children's being us'd to strong drin\, especially to 
drink in private with the servants. 

20. Fruit makes one of the most difficult chapters in the govern- 
ment of health, especially that of children. Our first parents ventur'd 
Paradise for it; and 'tis no wonder our children cannot stand the 
temptation, tho' it cost them their health. The regulation of this can- 
not come under any one general rule; for I am by no means of their 
mind, who would keep children almost wholly from fruit, as a thing 
totally unwholesome for them : by which strict way, they make them 
but the more ravenous after it, and to eat good or bad, ripe or unripe, 
all that they can get, whenever they come at it. Melons, peaches, 
most sorts of plums, and all sorts of grapes in England, I think 
children should be wholly t(ept from, as having a very tempting 
taste, in a very unwholesome juice; so that if it were possible, they 
should never so much as see them, or know there were any such 
thing. But strawberries, cherries, gooseberries, or currants, when 
thorough ripe, I think may be very safely allow'd them, and that 
with a pretty liberal hand, if they be eaten with these cautions: i. 
Not after meals, as we usually do, when the stomach is already full 
of other food: but I think they should be eaten rather before or be- 
tween meals, and children should have them for their breakfast. 



FRUIT 21 

2. Bread eaten with them. 3. Perfectly ripe. If they are thus eaten, 
I imagine them rather conducing than hurtful to our health. Sum- 
mer-jruits, being suited to the hot season of the year they come in, 
refresh our stomachs, languishing and fainting under it; and there- 
fore I should not be altogether so strict in this point, as some are 
to their children; who being kept so very short, instead of a moderate 
quantity of well-chosen fruit, which being allow'd them would con- 
tent them, whenever they can get loose, or bribe a servant to supply 
them, satisfy their longing with any trash they can get, and eat to 
a surfeit. 

Apples and pears too, which are thorough ripe, and have been 
gather'd some time, I think may be safely eaten at any time, and in 
pretty large quantities, especially apples; which never did any body 
hurt, that I have heard, after October. 

Fruits also dry'd without sugar, I think very wholesome. But 
sweet-meats of all kinds are to be avoided; which whether they do 
more harm to the maker or eater, is not easy to tell. This I am sure, 
it is one of the most inconvenient ways of expence that vanity hath 
yet found out; and so I leave them to the ladies. 

21. Of all that looks soft and effeminate, nothing is more to be 
indulg'd children, than sleep. In this alone they are to be permitted to 
have their full satisfaction; nothing contributing more to the growth 
and health of children, than sleep. All that is to be regulated in it, is, 
in what part of the twenty-four hours they should take it; which will 
easily be resolved, by only saying that it is of great use to accustom 
'em to rise early in the morning. It is best so to do, for health; and 
he that, from his childhood, has, by a settled custom, made rising 
betimes easy and familiar to him, will not, when he is a man, waste 
the best and most useful part of his life in drowsiness, and lying 
a-bed. If children therefore are to be call'd up early in the morning, it 
will follow of course, that they must go to bed betimes; whereby they 
will be accustom'd to avoid the unhealthy and unsafe hours of de- 
bauchery, which are those of the evenings; and they who keep good 
hours, seldom are guilty of any great disorders. I do not say this, as 
if your son, when grown up, should never be in company past eight, 
nor ever chat over a glass of wine 'till midnight. You are now, by 
the accustoming of his tender years, to indispose him to those in- 



22 JOHN LOCKE 

conveniences as much as you can; and it will be no small advantage, 
that contrary practice having made sitting up uneasy to him, it will 
make him often avoid, and very seldom propose midnight-revels. 
But if it should not reach so far, but fashion and company should 
prevail, and make him live as others do above twenty, 'tis worth the 
while to accustom him to early rising and early going to bed, between 
this and that, for the present improvement of his health and other 
advantages. 

Though I have said, a large allowance of sleep, even as much as 
they will take, should be made to children when they are little; yet 
I do not mean, that it should always be continued to them in so large 
a proportion, and they sufrer'd to indulge a drowsy laziness in their 
bed, as they grow up bigger. But whether they should begin to be 
restrained at seven or ten years old, or any other time, is impossible 
to be precisely determined. Their tempers, strength, and constitu- 
tions, must be consider'd. But some time between seven and four- 
teen, if they are too great lovers of their beds, I think it may be sea- 
sonable to begin to reduce them by degrees to about eight hours, 
which is generally rest enough for healthy grown people. If you have 
accustom'd him, as you should do, to rise constantly very early in 
the morning, this fault of being too long in bed will easily be reform'd, 
and most children will be forward enough to shorten that time them- 
selves, by coveting to sit up with the company at night; tho' if they 
be not look'd after, they will be apt to take it out in the morning, 
which should by no means be permitted. They should constantly 
be call'd up and made to rise at their early hour; but great care should 
be taken in waking them, that it be not done hastily, nor with a loud 
or shrill voice, or any other sudden violent noise. This often affrights 
children, and does them great harm; and sound sleep thus broke off, 
with sudden alarms, is apt enough to discompose any one. When 
children are to be waken'd out of their sleep, be sure to begin with a 
low call, and some gentle motion, and so draw them out of it by de- 
grees, and give them none but kind words and usage, 'till they are 
come perfectly to themselves, and being quite dress'd, you are sure 
they are thoroughly awake. The being forc'd from their sleep, how 
gently so ever you do it, is pain enough to them; and care should be 



SLEEP 23 

taken not to add any other uneasiness to it, especially such that may 
terrify them. 

22. Let his bed be hard, and rather quilts than feathers. Hard 
lodging strengthens the parts; whereas being bury'd every night in 
feathers melts and dissolves the body, is often the cause of weakness, 
and forerunner of an early grave. And, besides the stone, which has 
often its rise from this warm wrapping of the reins, several other 
indispositions, and that which is the root of them all, a tender 
weakly constitution, is very much owing to down-beds. Besides, he 
that is used to hard lodging at home, will not miss his sleep (where 
he has most need of it) in his travels abroad, for want of his soft bed, 
and his pillows laid in order. And therefore, I think it would not be 
amiss, to ma\e his bed after different fashions, sometimes lay his head 
higher, sometimes lower, that he may not feel every little change 
he must be sure to meet with, who is not design'd to lie always in my 
young master's bed at home, and to have his maid lay all things in 
print, and tuck him in warm. The great cordial of nature is sleep. 
He that misses that, will suffer by it; and he is very unfortunate, 
who can take his cordial only in his mother's fine gilt cup, and not in 
a wooden dish. He that can sleep soundly, takes the cordial; and it 
matters not whether it be on a soft bed or the hard boards. 'Tis sleep 
only that is the thing necessary. 

23. One thing more there is, which has a great influence upon 
the health, and that is, going to stool regularly; people that are very 
loose, have seldom strong thoughts, or strong bodies. But the cure 
of this, both by diet and medicine, being much more easy than the 
contrary evil, there needs not much to be said about it : for if it come 
to threaten, either by its violence or duration, it will soon enough, 
and sometimes too soon, make a physician be sent for; and if it be 
moderate or short, it is commonly best to leave it to nature. On the 
other side, costiveness has too its ill effects, and is much harder to be 
dealt with by physick; purging medicines, which seem to give relief, 
rather increasing them than removing the evil. 

24. It being an indisposition I had a particular reason to enquire 
into, and not finding the cure of it in books, I set my thoughts on 
work, believing that greater changes than that might be made in our 



24 JOHN LOCKE 

bodies, if we took the right course, and proceeded by rational steps. 

1. Then I consider'd, that going to stool, was the effect of certain 
motions of the body; especially of the peristaltick motion of the guts. 

2. I consider'd, that several motions, that were not perfectly volun- 
tary, might yet, by use and constant application, be brought to be 
habitual, if by an unintermitted custom they were at certain seasons 
endeavour'd to be constantly produced. 

3. I had observ'd some men, who by taking after supper a pipe of 
tobacco, never fail'd of a stool, and began to doubt with myself, 
whether it were not more custom, than the tobacco, that gave them 
the benefit of nature; or at least, if the tobacco did it, it was rather 
by exciting a vigorous motion in the guts, than by any purging 
quality; for then it would have had other effects. 

Having thus once got the opinion that it was possible to make it 
habitual, the next thing was to consider what way and means was the 
likeliest to obtain it. 

4. Then I guess'd, that if a man, after his first eating in the morn- 
ing, would presently solicit nature, and try whether he could strain 
himself so as to obtain a stool, he might in time, by constant applica- 
tion, bring it to be habitual. 

25. The reasons that made me chuse this time, were, 

1. Because the stomach being then empty, if it receiv'd any thing 
grateful to it (for I would never, but in case of necessity, have any 
one eat but what he likes, and when he has an appetite) it was apt to 
embrace it close by a strong constriction of its fibres; which constric- 
tion, I suppos'd, might probably be continu'd on in the guts, and so 
increase their peristaltick motion, as we see in the Ileus, that an in- 
verted motion, being begun any where below, continues itself all the 
whole length, and makes even the stomach obey that irregular 
motion. 

2. Because when men eat, they usually relax their thoughts, and the 
spirits then, free from other employments, are more vigorously dis- 
tributed into the lower belly, which thereby contribute to the same 
effect. 

3. Because, whenever men have leisure to eat, they have leisure 
enough also to make so much court to Madam Cloacina, as would 
be necessary to our present purpose; but else, in the variety of human 



PHYSIC 25 

affairs and accidents, it was impossible to affix it to any hour certain, 
whereby the custom would be interrupted. Whereas men in health 
seldom failing to eat once a day, tho' the hour chang'd, the custom 
might still be preserv'd. 

26. Upon these grounds the experiment began to be try'd, and 
I have known none who have been steady in the prosecution of it, 
and taken care to go constantly to the necessary-house, after their 
first eating, whenever that happen'd, whether they found themselves 
call'd on or no, and there endeavoured to put nature upon her duty, 
but in a few months they obtain'd the desired success, and brought 
themselves to so regular an habit, that they seldom ever fail'd of a 
stool after their first eating, unless it were by their own neglect: for, 
whether they have any motion or no, if they go to the place, and do 
their part, they are sure to have nature very obedient. 

27. I would therefore advise, that this course should be taken 
with a child every day presently after he has eaten his breakfast. Let 
him be set upon the stool, as if disburthening were as much in his 
power as filling his belly; and let not him or his maid know any thing 
to the contrary, but that it is so; and if he be forc'd to endeavour, by 
being hinder'd from his play or eating again 'till he has been effec- 
tually at stool, or at least done his utmost, I doubt not but in a little 
while it will become natural to him. For there is reason to suspect, 
that children being usually intent on their play, and very heedless 
of any thing else, often let pass those motions of nature, when she 
calls them but gently; and so they, neglecting the seasonable offers, 
do by degrees bring themselves into an habitual costiveness. That by 
this method costiveness may be prevented, I do more than guess; 
having known by the constant practice of it for some time, a child 
brought to have a stool regularly after his breakfast every morning. 

28. How far any grown people will think fit to make trial of 
it, must be left to them; tho' I cannot but say, that considering the 
many evils that come from that defect, of a requisite easing of nature, 
I scarce know any thing more conducing to the preservation of health, 
than this is. Once in four and twenty hours, I think is enough; and 
no body, I guess, will think it too much. And by this means it is to 
be obtain'd without physick, which commonly proves very ineffectual 
in the cure of a settled and habitual costiveness. 



26 JOHN LOCKE 

29. This is all I have to trouble you with concerning his manage- 
ment in the ordinary course of his health. Perhaps it will be expected 
from me, that I should give some directions of physic^, to prevent 
diseases; for which I have only this one, very sacredly to be observ'd, 
never to give children any physic^ for prevention. The observation 
of what I have already advis'd, will, I suppose, do that better than the 
ladies' diet-drinks or apothecaries' medicines. Have a great care of 
tampering that way, lest, instead of preventing, you draw on diseases. 
Nor even upon every little indisposition is physic\ to be given, or 
the physician to be call'd to children, especially if he be a busy man, 
that will presently fill their windows with gally-pots, and their 
stomachs with drugs. It is safer to leave them wholly to nature, than 
to put 'em into the hands of one forward to tamper, or that thinks 
children are to be cur'd, in ordinary distempers, by any thing but 
diet, or by a method very little distant from it: it seeming suitable 
both to my reason and experience, that the tender constitutions of 
children should have as little done to them as is possible, and as the 
absolute necessity of the case requires. A little cold-still'd red poppy- 
water, which is the true surfeit-water with ease, and abstinence from 
flesh, often puts an end to several distempers in the beginning, which, 
by too forward applications, might have been made lusty diseases. 
When such a gentle treatment will not stop the growing mischief, nor 
hinder it from turning into a form'd disease, it will be time to seek 
the advice of some sober and discreet physician. In this part, I hope, 
I shall find an easy belief; and no body can have a pretence to doubt 
the advice of one who has spent some time in the study of physick, 
when he counsels you not to be too forward in making use of physic^ 
and physicians. 

30. And thus I have done with what concerns the body and 
health, which reduces itself to these few and easy observable rules: 
plenty of open air, exercise, and sleep, plain diet, no wine or strong 
drin\, and very little or no physic\, not too warm and strait clothing, 
especially the head and feet kept cold, and the jeet often us'd to cold 
water, and expos'd to wet. 

31. Due care being had to keep the body in strength and vigour, 
so that it may be able to obey and execute the orders of the mind; 
the next and principal business is, to set the mind right, that on all 



EARLY TRAINING 27 

occasions it may be disposed to consent to nothing but what may be 
suitable to the dignity and excellency of a rational creature. 

32. If what I have said in the beginning of this discourse be 
true, as I do not doubt but it is, viz. That the difference to be found 
in the manners and abilities of men is owing more to their education 
than to any thing else, we have reason to conclude, that great care 
is to be had of the forming children's minds, and giving them that 
seasoning early, which shall influence their lives always after: For 
when they do well or ill, the praise and blame will be laid there; 
and when any thing is done awkwardly, the common saying will 
pass upon them, that it's suitable to their breeding. 

33. As the strength of the body lies chiefly in being able to 
endure hardships, so also does that of the mind. And the great 
principle and foundation of all virtue and worth is plac'd in this: 
that a man is able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own 
inclinations, and purely follow what reason directs as best, tho' the 
appetite lean the other way. 

34. The great mistake I have observ'd in people's breeding 
their children, has been, that this has not been taken care enough 
of in its due season: that the mind has not been made obedient to 
discipline, and pliant to reason, when at first it was most tender, 
most easy to be bow'd. Parents being wisely ordain'd by nature 
to love their children, are very apt, if reason watch not that natural 
affection very warily, are apt, I say, to let it run into fondness. They 
love their little ones and it is their duty; but they often, with them, 
cherish their faults too. They must not be cross'd, forsooth; they 
must be permitted to have their wills in all things; and they being 
in their infancies not capable of great vices, their parents think they 
may safe enough indulge their irregularities, and make themselves 
sport with that pretty perverseness which they think well enough be- 
comes that innocent age. But to a fond parent, that would not have his 
child corrected for a perverse trick, but excus'd it, saying it was a small 
matter, Solon very well reply'd, aye, but custom is a great one. 

35. The fondling must be taught to strike and call names, must 
have what he cries for, and do what he pleases. Thus parents, by 
humouring and cockering them when little, corrupt the principles 
of nature in their children, and wonder afterwards to taste the bitter 



28 JOHN LOCKE 

waters, when they themselves have poison'd the fountain. For when 
their children are grown up, and these ill habits with them; when 
they are now too big to be dandled, and their parents can no longer 
make use of them as play-things, then they complain that the brats 
are untoward and perverse; then they are offended to see them wilful, 
and are troubled with those ill humours which they themselves 
infus'd and fomented in them; and then, perhaps too late, would be 
glad to get out those weeds which their own hands have planted, 
and which now have taken too deep root to be easily extirpated. 
For he that hath been us'd to have his will in every thing, as long as 
he was in coats, why should we think it strange, that he should 
desire it, and contend for it still, when he is in breeches? Indeed, 
as he grows more towards a man, age shews his faults the more; 
so that there be few parents then so blind as not to see them, few so 
insensible as not to feel the ill effects of their own indulgence. He 
had the will of his maid before he could speak or go; he had the 
mastery of his parents ever since he could prattle; and why, now he 
is grown up, is stronger and wiser than he was then, why now of 
a sudden must he be restrain'd and curb'd ? Why must he at seven, 
fourteen, or twenty years old, lose the privilege, which the parents' 
indulgence 'till then so largely allow'd him? Try it in a dog or an 
horse or any other creature, and see whether the ill and resty tricks 
they have learn'd when young, are easily to be mended when they are 
knit; and yet none of those creatures are half so wilful and proud, or 
half so desirous to be masters of themselves and others, as man. 

36. We are generally wise enough to begin with them when 
they are very young, and discipline betimes those other creatures 
we would make useful and good for somewhat. They are only our 
own offspring, that we neglect in this point; and having made them 
ill children, we foolishly expect they should be good men. For if 
the child must have grapes or sugar-plums when he has a mind to 
them, rather than make the poor baby cry or be out of humour; why, 
when he is grown up, must he not be satisfy'd too, if his desires 
carry him to wine or women? They are objects as suitable to the 
longing of one of more years, as what he cry'd for, when little, was 
to the inclinations of a child. The having desires accommodated to 
the apprehensions and relish of those several ages, is not the fault; 



EARLY TRAINING 29 

but the not having them subject to the rules and restraints of 
reason: the difference lies not in having or not having appetites, 
but in the power to govern, and deny ourselves in them. He that is 
not us'd to submit his will to the reason of others when he is young, 
will scarce hearken to submit to his own reason when he is of an 
age to make use of it. And what kind of a man such an one is like 
to prove, is easy to foresee. 

37. These are oversights usually committed by those who seem 
to take the greatest care of their children's education. But if we 
look into the common management of children, we shall have reason 
to wonder, in the great dissoluteness of manners which the world 
complains of, that there are any footsteps at all left of virtue. I desire 
to know what vice can be nam'd, which parents, and those about 
children, do not season them with, and drop into 'em the seeds of, 
as soon as they are capable to receive them? I do not mean by the 
examples they give, and the patterns they set before them, which is 
encouragement enough; but that which I would take notice of here 
is, the downright teaching them vice, and actual putting them out 
of the way of virtue. Before they can go, they principle 'em with 
violence, revenge, and cruelty. Give me a blow, that I may beat him, 
is a lesson which most children every day hear; and it is thought 
nothing, because their hands have not strength to do any mischief. 
But I ask, does not this corrupt their mind? Is not this the way of 
force and violence, that they are set in? And if they have been 
taught when little, to strike and hurt others by proxy, and encourag'd 
to rejoice in the harm they have brought upon them, and see them 
suffer, are they not prepar'd to do it when they are strong enough to 
be felt themselves, and can strike to some purpose? 

The coverings of our bodies which are for modesty, warmth and 
defence, are by the folly or vice of parents recommended to their 
children for other uses. They are made matters of vanity and emu- 
lation. A child is set a-longing after a new suit, for the finery of it; 
and when the little girl is trick'd up in her new gown and commode, 
how can her mother do less than teach her to admire herself, by 
calling her, her little queen and her princess? Thus the little ones 
are taught to be proud of their clothes before they can put them on. 
And why should they not continue to value themselves for their 



30 JOHN LOCKE 

outside fashionableness of the taylor or tirewoman's making, when 
their parents have so early instructed them to do so? 

Lying and equivocations, and excuses little different from lying, 
are put into the mouths of young people, and commended in ap- 
prentices and children, whilst they are for their master's or parents' 
advantage. And can it be thought, that he that finds the straining of 
truth dispens'd with, and encourag'd, whilst it is for his godly 
master's turn, will not make use of that privilege for himself, when 
it may be for his own profit? 

Those of the meaner sort are hinder'd, by the straitness of their 
fortunes, from encouraging intemperance in their children by the 
temptation of their diet, or invitations to eat or drink more than 
enough; but their own ill examples, whenever plenty comes in their 
way, shew, that 'tis not the dislike of drunkenness or gluttony, that 
keeps them from excess, but want of materials. But if we look into 
the houses of those who are a little warmer in their fortunes, their 
eating and drinking are made so much the great business and happi- 
ness of life, that children are thought neglected, if they have not 
their share of it. Sauces and ragoos, and food disguis'd by all the 
arts of cookery, must tempt their palates, when their bellies are full; 
and then, for fear the stomach should be overcharged, a pretence 
is found for t'other glass of wine to help digestion, tho' it only 
serves to increase the surfeit. 

Is my young master a little out of order, the first question is, What 
will my dear eat? What shall I get for thee? Eating and drinking 
are instantly press'd; and every body's invention is set on work, to 
find out something luscious and delicate enough to prevail over 
that want of appetite, which nature has wisely order'd in the begin- 
ning of distempers, as a defence against their increase; that being 
freed from the ordinary labour of digesting any new load in the 
stomach, she may be at leisure to correct and master the peccant 
humours. 

And where children are so happy in the care of their parents, as 
by their prudence to be kept from the excess of their tables, to the 
sobriety of a plain and simple diet, yet there too they are scarce to 
be preserv'd from the contagion that poisons the mind; though, by 
a discreet management whilst they are under tuition, their healths 



CRAVING 31 

perhaps may be pretty well secure, yet their desires must needs yield 
to the lessons which every where will be read to them upon this 
part of epicurism. The commendation that eating well has every 
where, cannot fail to be a successful incentive to natural appetites, 
and bring them quickly to the liking and expence of a fashionable 
table. This shall have from every one, even the reprovers of vice, 
the title of living well. And what shall sullen reason dare to say 
against the publick testimony? Or can it hope to be heard, if it 
should call that luxury, which is so much own'd and universally 
practis'd by those of the best quality? 

This is now so grown a vice, and has so great supports, that I 
know not whether it do not put in for the name of virtue; and 
whether it will not be thought folly, or want of knowledge of the 
world, to open one's mouth against it ? And truly I should suspect, 
that what I have here said of it, might be censup'd as a little satire 
out of my way, did I not mention it with this view, that it might 
awaken the care and watchfulness of parents in the education of 
their children, when they see how they are beset on every side, not 
only with temptations, but instructors to vice, and that, perhaps, in 
those they thought places of security. 

I shall not dwell any longer on this subject, much less run over 
all the particulars that would shew what pains are us'd to corrupt 
children, and instil principles of vice into them: but I desire parents 
soberly to consider, what irregularity or vice there is which children 
are not visibly taught, and whether it be not their duty and wisdom 
to provide them other instructions. 

38. It seems plain to me, that the principle of all virtue and excel- 
lency lies in a power of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our own 
desires, where reason does not authorize them. This power is to be 
got and improv'd by custom, made easy and familiar by an early 
practice. If therefore I might be heard, I would advise, that, con- 
trary to the ordinary way, children should be us'd to submit their 
desires, and go without their longings, even from their very cradles. 
The first thing they should learn to know, should be, that they were 
not to have anything because it pleas'd them, but because it was 
thought fit for them. If things suitable to their wants were supply'd 
to them, so that they were never suffer'd to have what they once 



32 JOHN LOCKE 

cry'd for, they would learn to be content without it, would never, 
with bawling and peevishness, contend for mastery, nor be half so 
uneasy to themselves and others as they are, because from the first 
beginning they are not thus handled. If they were never sufTer'd to 
obtain their desire by the impatience they express'd for it, they would 
no more cry for another thing, than they do for the moon. 

39. I say not this, as if children were not to be indulg'd in any- 
thing, or that I expected they should in hanging-sleeves have the 
reason and conduct of counsellors. I consider them as children, who 
must be tenderly us'd, who must play, and have play-things. That 
which I mean, is, that whenever they crav'd what was not fit for 
them to have or do, they should not be permitted it because they were 
little, and desir'd it: nay, whatever they were importunate for, they 
should be sure, for that very reason, to be deny'd. I have seen chil- 
dren at a table, who, whatever was there, never ask'd for anything, 
but contentedly took what was given them: and at another place, I 
have seen others cry for everything they saw; must be serv'd out of 
every dish, and that first too. What made this vast difference but 
this? that one was accustom'd to have what they call'd or cry'd for, 
the other to go without it. The younger they are, the less I think 
are their unruly and disorderly appetites to be comply 'd with; and 
the less reason they have of their own, the more are they to be under 
the absolute power and restraint of those in whose hands they are. 
From which I confess it will follow, that none but discreet people 
should be about them. If the world commonly does otherwise, I 
cannot help that. I am saying what I think should be; which if it 
were already in fashion, I should not need to trouble the world with 
a discourse on this subject. But yet I doubt not, but when it is 
consider'd, there will be others of opinion with me, that the sooner 
this way is begun with children, the easier it will be for them and 
their governors too; and that this ought to be observed as an in- 
violable maxim, that whatever once is deny'd them, they are cer- 
tainly not to obtain by crying or importunity, unless one has a mind 
to teach them to be impatient and troublesome, by rewarding them 
for it when they are so. 

40. Those therefore that intend ever to govern their children, 
should begin it whilst they are very little, and look that they per- 



EARLY TRAINING 33 

fectly comply with the will of their parents. Would you have your 
son obedient to you when past a child; be sure then to establish the 
authority of a father as soon as he is capable of submission, and can 
understand in whose power he is. If you would have him stand in 
awe of you, imprint it in his infancy; and as he approaches more to 
a man, admit him nearer to your familiarity; so shall you have him 
your obedient subject (as is fit) whilst he is a child, and your affec- 
tionate friend when he is a man. For methinks they mightily mis- 
place the treatment due to their children, who are indulgent and 
familiar when they are little, but severe to them, and keep them at 
a distance, when they are grown up : for liberty and indulgence can 
do no good to children; their want of judgment makes them stand 
in need of restraint and discipline; and on the contrary, imperious- 
ness and severity is but an ill way of treating men, who have reason 
of their own to guide them; unless you have a mind to make your 
children, when grown up, weary of you, and secretly to say within 
themselves, When will you die, father? 

41. I imagine every one will judge it reasonable, that their 
children, when little, should look upon their parents as their lords, 
their absolute governors, and as such stand in awe of them; and that 
when they come to riper years, they should look on them as their 
best, as their only sure friends, and as such love and reverence them. 
The way I have mention'd, if I mistake not, is the only one to obtain 
this. We must look upon our children, when grown up, to be like 
ourselves, with the same passions, the same desires. We would be 
thought rational creatures, and have our freedom; we love not to be 
uneasy under constant rebukes and brow-beatings, nor can we bear 
severe humours and great distance in those we converse with. Who- 
ever has such treatment when he is a man, will look out other 
company, other friends, other conversation, with whom he can be 
at ease. If therefore a strict hand be kept over children from the 
beginning, they will in that age be tractable, and quietly submit to 
it, as never having known any other: and if, as they grow up to the 
use of reason, the rigour of government be, as they deserve it, gently 
relax'd, the father's brow more smooth'd to them, and the distance 
by degrees abated, his former restraints will increase their love, 
when they find it was only a kindness to them, and a care to make 



34 JOHN LOCKE 

them capable to deserve the favour of their parents, and the esteem 
of everybody else. 

42. Thus much for the settling your authority over your children 
in general. Fear and awe ought to give you the first power over their 
minds, and love and friendship in riper years to hold it: for the 
time must come, when they will be past the rod and correction; and 
then, if the love of you make them not obedient and dutiful, if the 
love of virtue and reputation keep them not in laudable courses, 
I ask, what hold will you have upon them to turn them to it? In- 
deed, fear of having a scanty portion if they displease you, may make 
them slaves to your estate, but they will be nevertheless ill and wicked 
in private; and that restraint will not last always. Every man must 
some time or other be trusted to himself and his own conduct; and 
he that is a good, a virtuous, and able man, must be made so within. 
And therefore what he is to receive from education, what is to sway 
and influence his life, must be something put into him betimes; 
habits woven into the very principles of his nature, and not a counter- 
feit carriage, and dissembled outside, put on by fear, only to avoid 
the present anger of a father who perhaps may disinherit him. 

43. This being laid down in general, as the course that ought 
to be taken, 'tis fit we now come to consider the parts of the discipline 
to be us'd, a little more particularly. I have spoken so much of 
carrying a strict hand over children, that perhaps I shall be suspected 
of not considering enough, what is due to their tender age and 
constitutions. But that opinion will vanish, when you have heard me 
a little farther: for I am very apt to think, that great severity of 
punishment does but very little good, nay, great harm in education; 
and I believe it will be found that, cceteris paribus, those children who 
have been most chastisd, seldom make the best men. All that I 
have hitherto contended for, is, that whatsoever rigor is necessary, 
it is more to be us'd, the younger children are; and having by a due 
application wrought its effect, it is to be relax'd, and chang'd into a 
milder sort of government. 

44. A compliance and suppleness of their wills, being by a steady 
hand introduc'd by parents, before children have memories to retain 
the beginnings of it, will seem natural to them, and work afterwards 
in them as if it were so, preventing all occasions of struggling or 



SELF-DENIAL 35 

repining. The only care is, that it be begun early, and inflexibly 
kept to 'till awe and respect be grown familiar, and there appears not 
the least reluctancy in the submission, and ready obedience of their 
minds. When this reverence is once thus established, (which it must 
be early, or else it will cost pains and blows to recover it, and the 
more the longer it is deferr'd) 'tis by it, still mix'd with as much 
indulgence as they make not an ill use of, and not by beating, chiding, 
or other servile punishments, they are for the future to be govern'd 
as they grow up to more understanding. 

45. That this is so, will be easily allow'd, when it is but con- 
sider'd, what is to be aim'd at in an ingenuous education; and upon 
what it turns. 

I. He that has not a mastery over his inclinations, he that knows 
not how to resist the importunity of present pleasure or pain, for the 
sake of what reason tells him is fit to be done, wants the true principle 
of virtue and industry, and is in danger never to be good for any- 
thing. This temper therefore, so contrary to unguided nature, is to 
be got betimes; and this habit, as the true foundation of future 
ability and happiness, is to be wrought into the mind as early as may 
be, even from the first dawnings of knowledge or apprehension 
in children, and so to be confirm'd in them, by all the care and 
ways imaginable, by those who have the oversight of their educa- 
tion. 

46. 2. On the other side, if the mind be curb'd, and humbled too 
much in children; if their spirits be abas'd and broken much, by too 
strict an hand over them, they lose all their vigour and industry, and 
are in a worse state than the former. For extravagant young fellows, 
that have liveliness and spirit, come sometimes to be set right, and 
so make able and great men; but defected minds, timorous and 
tame, and low spirits, are hardly ever to be rais'd, and very seldom 
attain to any thing. To avoid the danger that is on either hand, is 
the great art; and he that has found a way how to keep up a child's 
spirit easy, active, and free, and yet at the same time to restrain him 
from many things he has a mind to, and to draw him to things that 
are uneasy to him; he, I say, that knows how to reconcile these 
seeming contradictions, has, in my opinion, got the true secret of 
education. 



36 JOHN LOCKE 

47. The usual lazy and short way by chastisement and the rod, 
which is the only instrument of government that tutors generally 
know, or ever think of, is the most unfit of any to be us'd in educa- 
tion, because it tends to both those mischiefs; which, as we have 
shewn, are the Scylla and Charybdis, which on the one hand or 
the other ruin all that miscarry. 

48. i. This kind of punishment contributes not at all to the 
mastery of our natural propensity to indulge corporal and present 
pleasure, and to avoid pain at any rate, but rather encourages it, and 
thereby strengthens that in us, which is the root from whence spring 
all vicious actions, and the irregularities of life. For what other 
motive, but of sensual pleasure and pain, does a child act by, who 
drudges at his book against his inclination, or abstains from eating 
unwholesome fruit, that he takes pleasure in, only out of fear of 
whipping? He in this only prefers the greater corporal pleasure^ or 
avoids the greater corporal pain. And what is it, to govern his actions, 
and direct his conduct by such motives as these? What is it, I say, 
but to cherish that principle in him, which it is our business to root 
out and destroy ? And therefore I cannot think any correction useful 
to a child, where the shame of suffering for having done amiss, does 
not work more upon him than the pain. 

49. 2. This sort of correction naturally breeds an aversion to that 
which 'tis the tutor's business to create a liking to. How obvious is 
it to observe, that children come to hate things which were at first 
acceptable to them, when they find themselves whipp'd, and chid, 
and teas'd about them? And it is not to be wonder'd at in them, 
when grown men would not be able to be reconcil'd to any thing 
by such ways. Who is there that would not be disgusted with any 
innocent recreation, in itself indifferent to him, if he should with 
blows or ill language be haled to it, when he had no mind? Or be 
constantly so treated, for some circumstances in his application to it ? 
This is natural to be so. Offensive circumstances ordinarily infect 
innocent things which they are join'd with; and the very sight of a 
cup wherein any one uses to take nauseous physick, turns his 
stomach, so that nothing will relish well out of it, tho' the cup be 
never so clean and well-shap'd, and of the richest materials. 

50. 3. Such a sort of slavish discipline makes a slavish temper. 



REWARDS 37 

The child submits, and dissembles obedience, whilst the fear of the 
rod hangs over him; but when that is remov'd, and by being out of 
sight, he can promise himself impunity, he gives the greater scope 
to his natural inclination; which by this way is not at all alter'd, but, 
on the contrary, heighten'd and increas'd in him; and after such 
restraint, breaks out usually with the more violence; or, 

51. 4. If severity carry 'd to the highest pitch does prevail, and 
works a cure upon the present unruly distemper, it often brings in 
the room of it a worse and more dangerous disease, by breaking the 
mind; and then, in the place of a disorderly young fellow, you have 
a low spirited moap'd creature, who, however with his unnatural 
sobriety he may please silly people, who commend tame unactive chil- 
dren, because they make no noise, nor give them any trouble; yet at 
last, will probably prove as uncomfortable a thing to his friends, as 
he will be all his life an useless thing to himself and others. 

52. Beating them, and all other sorts of slavish and corporal 
punishments, are not the discipline fit to be used in the education of 
those we would have wise, good, and ingenuous men; and therefore 
very rarely to be apply'd, and that only in great occasions, and cases 
of extremity. On the other side, to flatter children by rewards of 
things that are pleasant to them, is as carefully to be avoided. He 
that will give to his son apples or sugar-plumbs, or what else of this 
kind he is most delighted with, to make him learn his book, does 
but authorize his love of pleasure, and cocker up that dangerous 
propensity, which he ought by all means to subdue and stifle in him. 
You can never hope to teach him to master it, whilst you compound 
for the check you gave his inclination in one place, by the satis- 
faction you propose to it in another. To make a good, a wise, and a 
virtuous man, 'tis fit he should learn to cross his appetite, and deny 
his inclination to riches, finery, or pleasing his palate, &c. whenever 
his reason advises the contrary, and his duty requires it. But when 
you draw him to do any thing that is fit by the offer of money, or 
reward the pains of learning his book by the pleasure of a luscious 
morsel; when you promise him a lace-cravat or a fine new suit, upon 
performance of some of his little tasks; what do you by proposing 
these as rewards, but allow them to be the good things he should 
aim at, and thereby encourage his longing for 'em, and accustom 



38 JOHN LOCKE 

him to place his happiness in them? Thus people, to prevail with 
children to be industrious about their grammar, dancing, or some 
other such matter, of no great moment to the happiness or usefulness 
of their lives, by misapply 'd rewards and punishments, sacrifice their 
virtue, invert the order of their education, and teach them luxury, 
pride, or covetousness, &c. For in this way, flattering those wrong 
inclinations which they should restrain and suppress, they lay the 
foundations of those future vices, which cannot be avoided but by 
curbing our desires and accustoming them early to submit to reason. 

53. I say not this, that I would have children kept from the con- 
veniences or pleasures of life, that are not injurious to their health 
or virtue. On the contrary, I would have their lives made as pleasant 
and as agreeable to them as may be, in a plentiful enjoyment of what- 
soever might innocently delight them; provided it be with this cau- 
tion, that they have those enjoyments, only as the consequences of 
the state of esteem and acceptation they are in with their parents 
and governors; but they should never be offer'd or bestow'd on them, 
as the rewards of this or that particular performance, that they shew 
an aversion to, or to which they would not have apply'd themselves 
without that temptation. 

54. But if you take away the rod on one hand, and these little 
encouragements which they are taken with, on the other, how then 
(will you say) shall children be govern'd? Remove hope and fear, 
and there is an end of all discipline. I grant that good and evil, 
reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: 
these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, 
and guided, and therefore they are to be made use of to children 
too. For I advise their parents and governors always to carry this 
in their minds, that children are to be treated as rational creatures. 

55. Rewards, I grant, and punishments must be proposed to 
children, if we intend to work upon them. The mistake I imagine 
is, that those that are generally made use of, are ill chosen. The pains 
and pleasures of the body are, I think, of ill consequence, when 
made the rewards and punishments whereby men would prevail on 
their children; for, as I said before, they serve but to increase and 
strengthen those inclinations, which 'tis our business to subdue and 
master. What principle of virtue do you lay in a child, if you will 



REPUTATION 39 

redeem his desires of one pleasure, by the proposal of another? This 
is but to enlarge his appetite, and instruct it to wander. If a child 
cries for an unwholesome and dangerous fruit, you purchase his 
quiet by giving him a less hurtful sweet-meat. This perhaps may 
preserve his health, but spoils his mind, and sets that farther out of 
order. For here you only change the object, but flatter still his appe- 
tite, and allow that must be satisfy'd, wherein, as I have shew'd, lies 
the root of the mischief; and till you bring him to be able to bear a 
denial of that satisfaction, the child may at present be quiet and 
orderly, but the disease is not cured. By this way of proceeding, you 
foment and cherish in him that which is the spring from whence all 
the evil flows, which will be sure on the next occasion to break out 
again with more violence, give him stronger longings, and you more 
trouble. 

56. The rewards and punishments then, whereby we should 
keep children in order, are quite of another kind, and of that force, 
that when we can get them once to work, the business, I think, is 
done, and the difficulty is over. Esteem and disgrace are, of all others, 
the most powerful incentives to the mind, when once it is brought 
to relish them. If you can once get into children a love of credit, 
and an apprehension of shame and disgrace, you have put into 'em 
the true principle, which will constantly work and incline them to 
the right. But it will be ask'd, How shall this be done ? 

I confess it does not at first appearance want some difficulty; but 
yet I think it worth our while to seek the ways (and practise them 
when found) to attain this, which I look on as the great secret of 
education. 

57. First, children (earlier perhaps than we think) are very 
sensible of praise and commendation. They find a pleasure in being 
esteem'd and valu'd, especially by their parents and those whom they 
depend on. If therefore the father caress and commend them when 
they do well, shew a cold and neglectful countenance to them upon 
doing ill, and this accompany'd by a like carriage of the mother and 
all others that are about them, it will, in a little time, make them 
sensible of the difference; and this, if constantly observ'd, I doubt not 
but will of itself work more than threats or blows, which lose their 
force when once grown common, and are of no use when shame does 



40 JOHN LOCKE 

not attend them; and therefore are to be forborne, and never to be 
us'd, but in the case hereafter-mention'd, when it is brought to 
extremity. 

58. But secondly, to make the sense of esteem or disgrace sink 
the deeper, and be of the more weight, other agreeable or disagree- 
able things should constantly accompany these different states; not as 
particular rewards and punishments of this or that particular action, 
but as necessarily belonging to, and constantly attending one, who 
by his carriage has brought himself into a state of disgrace or com- 
mendation. By which way of treating them, children may as much 
as possible be brought to conceive, that those that are commended, 
and in esteem for doing well, will necessarily be belov'd and cherish' d 
by every body, and have all other good things as a consequence of it; 
and on the other side, when any one by miscarriage falls into dis- 
esteem, and cares not to preserve his credit, he will unavoidably fall 
under neglect and contempt; and in that state, the want of what- 
ever might satisfy or delight him will follow. In this way the 
objects of their desires are made assisting to virtue, when a settled 
experience from the beginning teaches children that the things they 
delight in, belong to, and are to be enjoy'd by those only who are in 
a state of reputation. If by these means you can come once to shame 
them out of their faults, (for besides that, I would willingly have 
no punishment) and make them in love with the pleasure of being 
well thought on, you may turn them as you please, and they will be 
in love with all the ways of virtue. 

59. The great difficulty here is, I imagine, from the folly and 
perverseness of servants, who are hardly to be hinder'd from crossing 
herein the design of the father and mother. Children discoun- 
tenanc'd by their parents for any fault, find usually a refuge and 
relief in the caresses of those foolish flatterers, who thereby undo 
whatever the parents endeavour to establish. When the father or 
mother looks sowre on the child, everybody else should put on the 
same coldness to him, and nobody give him countenance, 'till for- 
giveness ask'd, and a reformation of his fault has set him right again, 
and restor'd him to his former credit. If this were constantly ob- 
serv'd, I guess there would be little need of blows or chiding: their 
own ease and satisfaction would quickly teach children to court 



SHAME 41 

commendation, and avoid doing that which they found everybody 
condemn'd and they were sure to suffer for, without being chid or 
beaten. This would teach them modesty and shame; and they would 
quickly come to have a natural abhorrence for that which they found 
made them slighted and neglected by every body. But how this in- 
convenience from servants is to be remedy'd, I must leave to parents' 
care and consideration. Only I think it of great importance; and 
that they are very happy who can get discreet people about their 
children. 

60. Frequent beating or chiding is therefore carefully to be 
avoided: because this sort of correction never produces any good, 
farther than it serves to raise shame and abhorrence of the miscar- 
riage that brought it on them. And if the greatest part of the trouble 
be not the sense that they have done amiss, and the apprehension that 
they have drawn on themselves the just displeasure of their best 
friends, the pain of whipping will work but an imperfect cure. It 
only patches up for the present, and skins it over, but reaches not 
to the bottom of the sore; ingenuous shame, and the apprehensions 
of displeasure, are the only true restraint. These alone ought to hold 
the reins, and keep the child in order. But corporal punishments 
must necessarily lose that effect, and wear out the sense of shame, 
where they frequently return. Shame in children has the same place 
that modesty has in women, which cannot be kept and often trans- 
gress'd against. And as to the apprehension of displeasure in the 
parents, that will come to be very insignificant, if the marks of that 
displeasure quickly cease, and a few blows fully expiate. Parents 
should well consider what faults in their children are weighty enough 
to deserve the declaration of their anger: but when their displeasure 
is once declar'd to a degree that carries any punishment with it, they 
ought not presently to lay by the severity of their brows, but to re- 
store their children to their former grace with some difficulty, and 
delay a full reconciliation, 'till their conformity and more than 
ordinary merit, make good their amendment. If this be not so 
order'd, punishment will, by familiarity, become a mere thing of 
course, and lose all its influence; offending, being chastised, and then 
forgiven, will be thought as natural and necessary, as noon, night, 
and morning following one another. 



42 JOHN LOCKE 

61. Concerning reputation, I shall only remark this one thing 
more of it, that though it be not the true principle and measure of 
virtue, (for that is the knowledge of a man's duty, and the satisfac- 
tion it is to obey his maker, in following the dictates of that light God 
has given him, with the hopes of acceptation and reward) yet it is 
that which comes nearest to it: and being the testimony and applause 
that other people's reason, as it were by a common consent, gives to 
virtuous and well-order'd actions, it is the proper guide and encour- 
agement of children, 'till they grow able to judge for themselves, 
and to find what is right by their own reason. 

62. This consideration may direct parents how to manage them- 
selves in reproving and commending their children. The rebukes 
and chiding, which their faults will sometimes make hardly to be 
avoided, should not only be in sober, grave, and unpassionate words, 
but also alone and in private: but the commendations children de- 
serve, they should receive before others. This doubles the reward, by 
spreading their praise; but the backwardness parents shew in divulg- 
ing their faults, will make them set a greater value on their credit 
themselves, and teach them to be the more careful to preserve the 
good opinion of others, whilst they think they have it: but when 
being expos'd to shame by publishing their miscarriages, they give it 
up for lost, that check upon them is taken oflf, and they will be the 
less careful to preserve others' good thoughts of them, the more they 
suspect that their reputation with them is already blemish'd. 

63. But if a right course be taken with children, there will 
not be so much need of the application of the common rewards and 
punishments as we imagine, and as the general practice has estab- 
lish'd. For all their innocent folly, playing and childish actions, are 
to be left perfectly free and unrestraind, as far as they can consist 
with the respect due to those that are present; and that with the 
greatest allowance. If these faults of their age, rather than of the 
children themselves, were, as they should be, left only to time and 
imitation and riper years to cure, children would escape a great deal 
of misapply'd and useless correction, which either fails to overpower 
the natural disposition of their childhood, and so by an ineffectual 
familiarity, makes correction in other necessary cases of less use; 
or else if it be of force to restrain the natural gaiety of that age, it 



RULES 43 

serves only to spoil the temper both of body and mind. If the noise 
and bustle of their play prove at any time inconvenient, or unsuitable 
to the place or company they are in, (which can only be where their 
parents are) a look or a word from the father or mother, if they 
have establish'd the authority they should, will be enough either to 
remove or quiet them for that time. But this gamesome humour, 
which is wisely adapted by nature to their age and temper, should 
rather be encourag'd to keep up their spirits, and improve their 
strength and health, than curb'd and restrain'd; and the chief art is 
to make all that they have to do, sport and play too. 

64. And here give me leave to take notice of one thing I think a 
fault in the ordinary method of education; and that is, the charging 
of children's memories, upon all occasions, with rules and precepts, 
which they often do not understand, and constantly as soon forget 
as given. It it be some action you would have done, or done other- 
wise, whenever they forget, or do it awkwardly, make them do it 
over and over again, 'till they are perfect, whereby you will get these 
two advantages. First, to see whether it be an action they can do, 
or is fit to be expected of them : for sometimes children are bid to do 
things which upon trial they are found not able to do, and had need 
be taught and exercis'd in before they are requir'd to do them. But 
it is much easier for a tutor to command than to teach. Secondly, 
another thing got by it will be this, that by repeating the same action 
'till it be grown habitual in them, the performance will not depend 
on memory or reflection, the concomitant of prudence and age, and 
not of childhood, but will be natural in them. Thus bowing to a 
gentleman, when he salutes him, and looking in his face, when he 
speaks to him, is by constant use as natural to a well-bred man, as 
breathing; it requires no thought, no reflection. Having this way 
cured in your child any fault, it is cured for ever: and thus one by one 
you may weed them out all, and plant what habits you please. 

65. I have seen parents so heap rules on their children, that it was 
impossible for the poor little ones to remember a tenth part of them, 
much less to observe them. However, they were either by words or 
blows corrected for the breach of those multiply'd and often very 
impertinent precepts. Whence it naturally follow'd that the children 
minded not what was said to them, when it was evident to them 



44 JOHN LOCKE 

that no attention they were capable of was sufficient to preserve 
them from transgression, and the rebukes which follow'd it. 

Let therefore your rules to your son be as few as possible, and 
rather fewer than more than seem absolutely necessary. For if you 
burden him with many rules, one of these two things must neces- 
sarily follow; that either he must be very often punish'd, which will 
be of ill consequence, by making punishment too frequent and fa- 
miliar; or else you must let the transgressions of some of your rules 
go unpunish'd, whereby they will of course grow contemptible, and 
your authority become cheap to him. Make but few laws, but see 
they be well observ'd when once made. Few years require but few 
laws, and as his age increases, when one rule is by practice well 
establish'd, you may add another. 

66. But pray remember, children are not to be taught by rules 
which will be always slipping out of their memories. What you 
think necessary for them to do, settle in them by an indispensable 
practice, as often as the occasion returns; and if it be possible, make 
occasions. This will beget habits in them which being once estab- 
lish'd, operate of themselves easily and naturally, without the assist- 
ance of the memory. But here let me give two cautions, i. The 
one is, that you keep them to the practice of what you would have 
grow into a habit in them, by kind words, and gentle admonitions, 
rather as minding them of what they forget, than by harsh rebukes 
and chiding, as if they were wilfully guilty. 2. Another thing you 
are to take care of, is, not to endeavour to settle too many habits at 
once, lest by variety you confound them, and so perfect none. When 
constant custom has made any one thing easy and natural to 'em, 
and they practise it without reflection, you may then go on to 
another. 

This method of teaching children by a repeated practice, and the 
same action done over and over again, under the eye and direction 
of the tutor, 'till they have got the habit of doing it well, and not by 
relying on rules trusted to their memories, has so many advantages, 
which way soever we consider it, that I cannot but wonder (if ill 
customs could be wondered at in any thing) how it could possibly 
be so much neglected. I shall name one more that comes now in 
my way. By this method we shall see whether what is requir'd 



AFFECTATION 45 

of him be adapted to his capacity, and any way suited to the child's 
natural genius and constitution; for that too much be consider'd 
in a right education. We must not hope wholly to change their 
original tempers, nor make the gay pensive and grave, nor the melan- 
choly sportive, without spoiling them. God has stamp'd certain char- 
acters upon men's minds, which like their shapes, may perhaps be 
a little mended, but can hardly be totally alter'd and transform'd 
into the contrary. 

He therefore that is about children should well study their natures 
and aptitudes, and see by often trials what turn they easily take, and 
what becomes them; observe what their native stock is, how it may 
be improv'd, and what it is fit for: he should consider what they 
want, whether they be capable of having it wrought into them by 
industry, and incorporated there by practice; and whether it be 
worth while to endeavour it. For in many cases, all that we can do, 
or should aim at, is, to make the best of what nature has given, to 
prevent the vices and faults to which such a constitution is most 
inclin'd, and give it all the advantages it is capable of. Every one's 
natural genius should be carry'd as far as it could; but to attempt the 
putting another upon him, will be but labour in vain; and what is so 
plaister'd on, will at best sit but untowardly, and have always hang- 
ing to it the ungracefulness of constraint and affectation. 

Affectation is not, I confess, an early fault of childhood, or the 
product of untaught nature. It is of that sort of weeds which grow 
not in the wild uncultivated waste, but in garden-plots, under the 
negligent hand or unskilful care of a gardener. Management and 
instruction, and some sense of the necessity of breeding, are requisite 
to make any one capable of affectation, which endeavours to correct 
natural defects, and has always the laudable aim of pleasing, though 
it always misses it; and the more it labours to put on gracefulness, 
the farther it is from it. For this reason, it is the more carefully to be 
watch'd, because it is the proper fault of education; a perverted edu- 
cation indeed, but such as young people often fall into, either by their 
own mistake, or the ill conduct of those about them. 

He that will examine wherein that gracefulness lies, which always 
pleases, will find it arises from that natural coherence which appears 
between the thing done and such a temper of mind as cannot but be 



46 JOHN LOCKE 

approv'd of as suitable to the occasion. We cannot but be pleas'd with 
an humane, riendly,civil temper wherever we meet with it. A mind 
free, and master of itself and all its actions, not low and narrow, not 
haughty and insolent, not blemish'd with any great defect, is what 
every one is taken with. The actions which naturally flow from such 
a well-form'd mind, please us also, as the genuine marks of it; and 
being as it were natural emanations from the spirit and disposition 
within, cannot but be easy and unconstrain'd. This seems to me to 
be that beauty which shines through some men's actions, sets off all 
that they do, and takes all they come near; when by a constant 
practice, they have fashion'd their carriage, and made all those 
little expressions of civility and respect, which nature or custom has 
establish'd in conversation, so easy to themselves, that they seem not 
artificial or studied, but naturally to follow from a sweetness of 
mind and a well-turn'd disposition. 

On the other side, affectation is an awkward and forc'd imitation 
of what should be genuine and easy, wanting the beauty that accom- 
panies what is natural; because there is always a disagreement be- 
tween the outward action, and the mind within, one of these two 
ways: i. Either when a man would outwardly put on a disposition 
of mind, which then he really has not, but endeavours by a forc'd 
carriage to make shew of; yet so, that the constraint he is under dis- 
covers itself: and thus men afreet sometimes to appear sad, merry, or 
kind, when in truth they are not so. 

2. The other is, when they do not endeavour to make shew of 
dispositions of mind, which they have not, but to express those they 
have by a carriage not suited to them. And such in conversation are 
all constrained motions, actions, words, or looks, which, though 
design'd to shew either their respect or civility to the company, or 
their satisfaction and easiness in it, are not yet natural nor genuine 
marks of the one or the other, but rather of some defect or mistake 
within. Imitation of others, without discerning what is graceful in 
them, or what is peculiar to their characters, often makes a great 
part of this. But affectation of all kinds, whencesoever it proceeds, is 
always offensive; because we naturally hate whatever is counterfeit, 
and condemn those who have nothing better to recommend them- 
selves by. 



MANNERS 47 

Plain and rough nature, left to itself, is much better than an arti- 
ficial ungracefulness, and such study'd ways of being illfashion'd. 
The want of an accomplishment, or some defect in our behaviour, 
coming short of the utmost gracefulness, often escapes observation 
and censure. But affectation in any part of our carriage is lighting 
up a candle to our defects, and never fails to make us be taken notice 
of, either as wanting sense, or wanting sincerity. This governors 
ought the more diligently to look after, because, as I above observ'd, 
'tis an acquir'd ugliness, owing to mistaken education, few being 
guilty of it but those who pretend to breeding, and would not be 
thought ignorant of what is fashionable and becoming in conversa- 
tion; and, if I mistake not, it has often its rise from the lazy admoni- 
tions of those who give rules, and propose examples, without joining 
practice with their instructions and making their pupils repeat the 
action in their sight, that they may correct what is indecent or con- 
strain'd in it, till it be perfected into an habitual and becoming 
easiness. 

67. Manners, as they call it, about which children are so often 
perplex'd, and have so many goodly exhortations made them by their 
wise maids and governesses, I think, are rather to be learnt by 
example than rules; and then children, if kept out of ill company, 
will take a pride to behave themselves prettily, after the fashion of 
others, perceiving themselves esteem'd and commended for it. But 
if by a little negligence in this part, the boy should not pull off his 
hat, nor make legs very gracefully, a dancing-master will cure that 
defect, and wipe of! all that plainness of nature, which the a-la-mode 
people call clownishness. And since nothing appears to me to give 
children so much becoming confidence and behaviour, and so to 
raise them to the conversation of those above their age, as dancing, 
I think they should be taught to dance as soon as they are capable 
of learning it. For tho' this consist only in outward gracefulness of 
motion, yet, I know not how, it gives children manly thoughts and 
carriage, more than any thing. But otherwise, I would not have 
little children much tormented about punctilio's or niceties of 
breeding. 

Never trouble your self about those faults in them, which you 
know age will cure: and therefore want of well-fashion'd civility in 



40 JOHN LOCKE 

the carriage, whilst civility is not wanting in the mind, (for there 
you must take care to plant it early) should be the parents' least care, 
whilst they are young. If his tender mind be fill'd with a veneration 
for his parents and teachers, which consists of love and esteem, and 
a fear to offend them: and with respect and good will to all people; 
that respect will of itself teach those ways of expressing it, which he 
observes most acceptable. Be sure to keep up in him the principles 
of good nature and kindness; make them as habitual as you can, by 
credit and commendation, and the good things accompanying that 
state: and when they have taken root in his mind, and are settled 
there by a continued practice, fear not, the ornaments of conversa- 
tion, and the outside of fashionable manners, will come in their due 
time; if when they are remov'd out of their maid's care, they are 
put into the hands of a well-bred man to be their governor. 

Whilst they are very young, any carelessness is to be borne with 
in children, that carries not with it the marks of pride or ill nature; 
but those, whenever they appear in any action, are to be corrected 
immediately by the ways above-mention'd. What I have said con- 
cerning manners, I would not have so understood, as if I meant 
that those who have the judgment to do it, should not gently fashion 
the motions and carriage of children, when they are very young. It 
would be of great advantage, if they had people about them from 
their being first able to go, that had the skill, and would take the 
right way to do it. That which I complain of, is the wrong course 
that is usually taken in this matter. Children, who were never taught 
any such thing as behaviour, are often (especially when strangers 
are present) chid for having some way or other fail'd in good man- 
ners, and have thereupon reproofs and precepts heap'd upon them, 
concerning putting ofif their hats, or making of legs, &c. Though 
in this, those concern'd pretend to correct the child, yet in truth, for 
the most part, it is but to cover their own shame; and they lay the 
blame on the poor little ones, sometimes passionately enough, to 
divert it from themselves, for fear the by-standers should impute to 
their want of care and skill the child's ill behaviour. 

For, as for the children themselves, they are never one jot better 'd 
by such occasional lectures. They at other times should be shewn 
what to do, and by reiterated actions be fashion'd beforehand into 



MANNERS 49 

the practice of what is fit and becoming, and not told and talk'd to 
do upon the spot, of what they have never been accustom'd nor know 
how to do as they should. To hare and rate them thus at every turn, 
is not to teach them, but to vex and torment them to no purpose. 
They should be let alone, rather than chid for a fault which is none 
of theirs, nor is in their power to mend for speaking to. And it were 
much better their natural childish negligence or plainness should be 
left to the care of riper years, than that they should frequently have 
rebukes misplac'd upon them, which neither do nor can give them 
graceful motions. If their minds are well-dispos'd, and principled 
with inward civility, a great part of the roughness which sticks to 
the outside for want of better teaching, time and observation will 
rub off, as they grow up, if they are bred in good company; but if in 
ill, all the rules in the world, all the correction imaginable, will not 
be able to polish them. For you must take this for a certain truth, 
that let them have what instructions you will, and ever so learned 
lectures of breeding daily inculcated into them, that which will 
most influence their carriage will be the company they converse 
with, and the fashion of those about them. Children (nay, and men 
too) do most by example. We are all a sort of camelions, that still 
take a tincture from things near us; nor is it to be wonder'd at in 
children, who better understand what they see than what they hear. 

68. I mendon'd above one great mischief that came by servants 
to children, when by their flatteries they take off the edge and force 
of the parents' rebukes, and so lessen their authority: and here is 
another great inconvenience which children receive from the ill 
examples which they meet with amongst the meaner servants. 

They are wholly, if possible, to be kept from such conversation; 
for the contagion of these ill precedents, both in civility and virtue, 
horribly infects children, as often as they come within reach of it. 
They frequently learn from unbred or debauch'd servants such lan- 
guage, untowardly tricks and vices, as otherwise they possibly would 
be ignorant of all their lives. 

69. 'Tis a hard matter wholly to prevent this mischief. You will 
have very good luck, if you never have a clownish or vicious servant, 
and if from them your children never get any infection: but yet as 
much must be done towards it as can be, and the children kept as 



50 JOHN LOCKE 

much as may be *in the company of their parents, and those to whose 
care they are committed. To this purpose, their being in their pres- 
ence should be made easy to them; they should be allow'd the liberties 
and freedoms suitable to their ages, and not be held under unneces- 
sary restraints, when in their parents' or governor's sight. If it be a 
prison to them, 'tis no wonder they should not like it. They must 
not be hinder'd from being children, or from playing, or doing as 
children, but from doing ill; all other liberty is to be allow'd them. 
Next, to make them in love with the company of their parents, they 
should receive all their good things there, and from their hands. 
The servants should be hinder'd from making court to them by 
giving them strong drink, wine, fruit, playthings, and other such 
matters, which may make them in love with their conversation. 

70. Having nam'd company, I am almost ready to throw away 
my pen, and trouble you no farther on this subject: for since that 
does more than all precepts, rules and instructions, methinks 'tis 
almost wholly in vain to make a long discourse of other things, and 
to talk of that almost to no purpose. For you will be ready to say, 
what shall I do with my son ? If I keep him always at home, he will 
be in danger to be my young master; and if I send him abroad, how 
is it possible to keep him from the contagion of rudeness and vice, 
which is every where so in fashion? In my house he will perhaps 
be more innocent, but more ignorant too of the world; wanting there 
change of company, and being us'd constantly to the same faces, he 
will, when he comes abroad, be a sheepish or conceited creature. 

I confess both sides have their inconveniences. Being abroad, 'tis 
true, will make him bolder, and better able to bustle and shift among 
boys of his own age; and the emulation of school-fellows often puts 
life and industry into young lads. But still you can find a school, 
wherein it is possible for the master to look after the manners of his 
scholars, and can shew as great effects of his care of forming their 
minds to virtue, and their carriage to good breeding, as of forming 
their tongues to the learned languages, you must confess, that you 
have a strange value for words, when preferring the languages of 
the antient Greeks and Romans to that which made 'em such brave 

1 How much the Romans thought the education of their children a business that 
properly belong'd to the parents themselves, see in Suetonius, August. 64. Plu- 
tarch in vita Catonis Censoris, Diodorus Siculus, /. 2, cap. 3. 



COMPANY 51 

men, you think it worth while to hazard your son's innocence and 
virtue for a little GreeJ^ and Latin. For, as for that boldness and spirit 
which lads get amongst their play-fellows at school, it has ordi- 
narily such a mixture of rudeness and ill-turn'd confidence, that 
those misbecoming and disingenuous ways of shifting in the world 
must be unlearnt, and all the tincture wash'd out again, to make 
way for better principles, and such manners as make a truly worthy 
man. He that considers how diametrically opposite the skill of living 
well, and managing, as a man should do, his affairs in the world, 
is to that mal-pertness, tricking, or violence learnt amongst school- 
boys, will think the faults of a privater education infinitely to be 
preferr'd to such improvements, and will take care to preserve his 
child's innocence and modesty at home, as being nearer of kin, and 
more in the way of those qualities which make an useful and able 
man. Nor does any one find, or so much as suspect, that that retire- 
ment and bashfulness which their daughters are brought up in, 
makes them less knowing, or less able women. Conversation, when 
they come into the world, soon gives them a becoming assurance; 
and whatsoever, beyond that, there is of rough and boisterous, may 
in men be very well spar'd too; for courage and steadiness, as I take 
it, lie not in roughness and ill breeding. 

Virtue is harder to be got than a knowledge of the world; and 
if lost in a young man, is seldom recover'd. Sheepishness and ig- 
norance of the world, the faults imputed to a private education, are 
neither the necessary consequences of being bred at home, nor if 
they were, are they incurable evils. Vice is the more stubborn, as 
well as the more dangerous evil of the two; and therefore in the 
first place to be fenced against. If that sheepish softness which often 
enervates those who are bred like fondlings at home, be carefully 
to be avoided, it is principally so for virtue's sake; for fear lest such 
a yielding temper should be too susceptible of vicious impressions, 
and expose the novice too easily to be corrupted. A young man before 
he leaves the shelter of his father's house, and the guard of a tutor, 
should be fortify'd with resolution, and made acquainted with men, 
to secure his virtues, lest he should be led into some ruinous course, 
or fatal precipice, before he is sufficiently acquainted with the dan- 
gers of conversation, and has steadiness enough not to yield to every 



52 JOHN LOCKE 

temptation. Were it not for this, a young man's bashfulness and 
ignorance in the world, would not so much need an early care. Con- 
versation would cure it in a great measure; or if that will not do it 
early enough, it is only a stronger reason for a good tutor at home. 
For if pains be to be taken to give him a manly air and assurance 
betimes, it is chiefly as a fence to his virtue when he goes into the 
world under his own conduct. 

It is preposterous therefore to sacrifice his innocency to the attain- 
ing of confidence and some little skill of bustling for himself among 
others, by his conversation with ill-bred and vicious boys; when the 
chief use of that sturdiness, and standing upon his own legs, is only 
for the preservation of his virtue. For if confidence or cunning come 
once to mix with vice, and support his miscarriages, he is only the 
surer lost; and you must undo again, and strip him of that he has 
got from his companions, or give him up to ruin. Boys will unavoid- 
ably be taught assurance by conversation with men, when they are 
brought into it; and that is time enough. Modesty and submission, 
till then, better fits them for instruction; and therefore there needs 
not any great care to stock them with confidence beforehand. That 
which requires most time, pains, and assiduity, is, to work into them 
the principles and practice of virtue and good breeding. This is the 
seasoning they should be prepar'd with, so as not easily to be got out 
again. This they had need to be well provided with, for conversation, 
when they come into the world, will add to their knowledge and 
assurance, but be too apt to take from their virtue; which therefore 
they ought to be plentifully stor'd with, and have that tincture sunk 
deep into them. 

How they should be fitted for conversation, and enter'd into the 
world, when they are ripe for it, we shall consider in another place. 
But how any one's being put into a mix'd herd of unruly boys, and 
there learning to wrangle at trap, or rook at span-farthing, fits him 
for civil conversation or business, I do not see. And what qualities 
are ordinarily to be got from such a troop of play-fellows as schools 
usually assemble together from parents of all kinds, that a father 
should so much covet, is hard to divine. I am sure, he who is able 
to be at the charge of a tutor at home, may there give his son a more 
genteel carriage, more manly thoughts, and a sense of what is worthy 



COMPANY 53 

and becoming, with a greater proficiency in learning into the bar- 
gain, and ripen him up sooner into a man, than any at school can 
do. Not that I blame the schoolmaster in this, or think it to be 
laid to his charge. The difference is great between two or three 
pupils in the same house, and three or four score boys lodg'd up and 
down: for let the master's industry and skill be never so great, it is 
impossible he should have fifty or an hundred scholars under his 
eye, any longer than they are in the school together: Nor can it be 
expected, that he should instruct them successfully in any thing but 
their books; the forming of their minds and manners requiring a 
constant attention, and particular application to every single boy, 
which is impossible in a numerous flock, and would be wholly in 
vain (could he have time to study and correct every one's particular 
defects and wrong inclinations) when the lad was to be left to him- 
self, or the prevailing infection of his fellows, the greatest part of 
the four and twenty hours. 

But fathers, observing that fortune is often most successfully 
courted by bold and bustling men, are glad to see their sons pert 
and forward betimes; take it for an happy omen that they will be 
thriving men, and look on the tricks they play their school-fellows, 
or learn from them, as a proficiency in the art of living, and making 
their way through the world. But I must take the liberty to say, that 
he that lays the foundation of his son's fortune in virtue and good 
breeding, takes the only sure and warrantable way. And 'tis not the 
waggeries or cheats practis'd amongst school-boys, 'tis not their 
roughness one to another, nor the well-laid plots of robbing an 
orchard together, that make an able man; but the principles of 
justice, generosity, and sobriety, join'd with observation and industry, 
qualities which I judge school-boys do not learn much of one another. 
And if a young gentleman bred at home, be not taught more of them 
than he could learn at school, his father has made a very ill choice 
of a tutor. Take a boy from the top of a grammar-school, and one 
of the same age bred as he should be in his father's family, and bring 
them into good company together, and then see which of the two 
will have the more manly carriage, and address himself with the 
more becoming assurance to strangers. Here I imagine the school- 
boy's confidence will either fail or discredit him; and if it be such as 



54 JOHN LOCKE 

fits him only for the conversation of boys, he were better to be 
without it. 

Vice, if we may believe the general complaint, ripens so fast now- 
a-days, and runs up to seed so early in young people, that it is im- 
possible to keep a lad from the spreading contagion, if you will 
venture him abroad in the herd, and trust to chance or his own 
inclination for the choice of his company at school. By what fate 
Vice has so thriven amongst us these years past, and by what hands 
it has been nurs'd up into so uncontroul'd a dominion, I shall leave 
to others to enquire. I wish that those who complain of the great 
decay of Christian piety and virtue every where, and of learning and 
acquir'd improvements in the gentry of this generation, would con- 
sider how to retrieve them in the next. This I am sure, that if the 
foundation of it be not laid in the education and principling of the 
youth, all other endeavours will be in vain. And if the innocence, 
sobriety, and industry of those who are coming up, be not taken 
care of and preserv'd, 'twill be ridiculous to expect, that those who are 
to succeed next on the stage, should abound in that virtue, ability, 
and learning, which has hitherto made England considerable in the 
world. I was going to add courage too, though it has been look'd 
on as the natural inheritance of Englishmen. What has been talk'd 
of some late actions at sea, of a kind unknown to our ancestors, gives 
me occasion to say, that debauchery sinks the courage of men; and 
when dissoluteness has eaten out the sense of true honour, bravery 
seldom stays long after it. And I think it impossible to find an 
instance of any nation, however renown'd for their valour, who ever 
kept their credit in arms, or made themselves redoubtable amongst 
their neighbours, after corruption had once broke through and 
dissolv'd the restraint of discipline, and vice was grown to such an 
head, that it durst shew itself barefac'd without being out of 
countenance. 

'Tis virtue then, direct virtue, which is the hard and valuable part 
to be aim'd at in education, and not a forward pertness, or any little 
arts of shifting. All other considerations and accomplishments 
should give way and be postpon'd to this. This is the solid and sub- 
stantial good which tutors should not only read lectures, and talk 
of, but the labour and art of education should furnish the mind with, 



VIRTUE 55 

and fasten there, and never cease till the young man had a true relish 
of it, and plac'd his strength, his glory, and his pleasure in it. 

The more this advances, the easier way will be made for other 
accomplishments in their turns. For he that is brought to submit to 
virtue, will not be refractory, or resty, in any thing that becomes 
him; and therefore I cannot but prefer breeding of a young gentle- 
man at home in his father's sight, under a good governour, as much 
the best and safest way to this great and main end of education, when 
it can be had, and is order'd as it should be. Gentlemen's houses 
are seldom without variety of company. They should use their sons 
to all the strange faces that come here, and engage them in conversa- 
tion with men of parts and breeding, as soon as they are capable of 
it. And why those who live in the country should not take them with 
them, when they make visits of civility to their neighbours, I know 
not. This I am sure, a father that breeds his son at home, has the 
opportunity to have him more in his own company, and there give 
him what encouragement he thinks fit, and can keep him better from 
the taint of servants and the meaner sort of people, than is possible 
to be done abroad. But what shall be resolv'd in the case, must in 
great measure be left to the parents, to be determin'd by their cir- 
cumstances and conveniences; only I think it the worst sort of good 
husbandry for a father not to strain himself a little for his son's 
breeding; which, let his condition be what it will, is the best portion 
he can leave him. But if, after all, it shall be thought by some, that 
the breeding at home has too little company, and that at ordinary 
schools, not such as it should be for a young gentleman, I think 
there might be ways found out to avoid the inconveniences on the 
one side and the other. 

71. Having under consideration how great the influence of 
company is, and how prone we are all, especially children, to imita- 
tion, I must here take the liberty to mind parents of this one thing, 
viz. That he that will have his son have a respect for him and his 
orders, must himself have a great reverence for his son. Maxima 
debetur pueris reverentia. You must do nothing before him, which 
you would not have him imitate. If any thing escape you, which you 
would have pass for a fault in him, he will be sure to shelter himself 
under your example, and shelter himself so as that it will not be easy 



56 JOHN LOCKE 

to come at him, to correct it in him the right way. If you punish 
him for what he sees you practise yourself, he will not think that 
severity to proceed from kindness in you, careful to amend a fault 
in him; but will be apt to interpret it the peevishness and arbitrary 
imperiousness of a father, who, without any ground for it, would 
deny his son the liberty and pleasures he takes himself. Or if you 
assume to yourself the liberty you have taken, as a privilege belong- 
ing to riper years, to which a child must not aspire, you do but add 
new force to your example, and recommend the action the more 
powerfully to him. For you must always remember, that children 
affect to be men earlier than is thought; and they love breeches, not 
for their cut or ease, but because the having them is a mark or step 
towards manhood. What I say of the father's carriage before his 
children, must extend itself to all those who have any authority over 
them, or for whom he would have them have any respect. 

72. But to return to the business of rewards and punishments. 
All the actions of childishness, and unfashionable carriage, and what- 
ever time and age will of itself be sure to reform, being (as I have 
said) exempt from the discipline of the rod, there will not be so 
much need of beating children as is generally made use of. To which 
if we add learning to read, write, dance, foreign language, &c. as 
under the same privilege, there will be but very rarely an occasion 
for blows or force in an ingenuous education. The right way to 
teach them those things, is, to give them a liking and inclination to 
what you suppose to them to be learn'd, and that will engage their 
industry and application. This I think no hard matter to do, if chil- 
dren be handled as they should be, and the rewards and punishments 
above-mention'd be carefully apply'd, and with them these few 
rules observ'd in the method of instructing them. 

73. i. None of the things they are to learn, should ever be made 
a burthen to them, or impos'd on them as a tas\. Whatever is so 
propos'd, presently becomes irksome; the mind takes an aversion 
to it, though before it were a thing of delight or indirTerency. Let a 
child but be order'd to whip his top at a certain time every day, 
whether he has or has not a mind to it; let this be but requir'd of 
him as a duty, wherein he must spend so many hours morning and 
afternoon, and see whether he will not soon be weary of any play 



PUNISHMENT 57 

at this rate. Is it not so with grown men ? What they do chearf ully 
of themselves, do they not presently grow sick of, and can no more 
endure, as soon as they find it is expected of them as a duty? Chil- 
dren have as much a mind to shew that they are free, that their own 
good actions come from themselves, that they are absolute and inde- 
pendent, as any of the proudest of you grown men, think of them 
as you please. 

74. 2. As a consequence of this, they should seldom be put about 
doing even those things you have got an inclination in them to, but 
when they have a mind and disposition to it. He that loves reading, 
writing, musick, &c. finds yet in himself certain seasons wherein those 
things have no relish to him; and if at that time he forces himself 
to it, he only pothers and wearies himself to no purpose. So it is with 
children. This change of temper should be carefully observ'd in 
them, and the favourable seasons of aptitude and inclination be heed- 
fully laid hold of: and if they are not often enough forward of them- 
selves, a good disposition should be talk'd into them, before they be 
set upon any thing. This I think no hard matter for a discreet tutor 
to do, who has study'd his pupil's temper, and will be at a little pains 
to fill his head with suitable ideas, such as may make him in love 
with the present business. By this means a great deal of time and 
tiring would be sav'd : for a child will learn three times as much when 
he is in tune, as he will with double the time and pains when he 
goes awkwardly or is dragg'd unwillingly to it. If this were minded 
as it should, children might be permitted to weary themselves with 
play, and yet have time enough to learn what is suited to the ca- 
pacity of each age. But no such thing is consider'd in the ordinary 
way of education, nor can it well be. That rough discipline of the 
rod is built upon other principles, has no attraction in it, regards not 
what humour children are in, nor looks after favourable seasons of 
inclination. And indeed it would be ridiculous, when compulsion 
and blows have rais'd an aversion in the child to his task, to expect 
he should freely of his own accord leave his play, and with pleasure 
court the occasions of learning; whereas, were matters order'd right, 
learning anything they should be taught might be made as much a 
recreation to their play, as their play is to their learning. The pains 
are equal on both sides. Nor is it that which troubles them; for they 



58 JOHN LOCKE 

love to be busy, and the change and variety is that which naturally 
delights them. The only odds is, in that which we call play they 
act at liberty, and employ their pains (whereof you may observe 
them never sparing) freely; but what they are to learn is forc'd upon 
them, they are call'd, compelPd, and driven to it. This is that, that 
at first entrance balks and cools them; they want their liberty. Get 
them but to ask their tutor to teach them, as they do often their play- 
fellows, instead of his calling upon them to learn, and they being satis- 
fy 'd that they act as freely in this as they do in other things, they will 
go on with as much pleasure in it, and it will not differ from their 
other sports and play. By these ways, carefully pursu'd, a child may 
be brought to desire to be taught any thing you have a mind he 
should learn. The hardest part, I confess, is with the first or eldest; 
but when once he is set right, it is easy by him to lead the rest whither 
one will. 

75. Though it be past doubt, that the fittest time for children to 
learn any thing, is, when their minds are in tune, and well dispos'd 
to it; when neither flagging of spirit, nor intentness of thought upon 
something else, makes them awkward and averse; yet two things are 
to be taken care of: I. That these seasons either not being warily 
observ'd, and laid hold on as often as they return, or else, not return- 
ing as often as they should, the improvement of the child be not 
thereby neglected, and so he be let grow into an habitual idleness, 
and confirm'd in this disposition: 2. That though other things are 
ill learn'd, when the mind is either indispos'd, or otherwise taken up; 
yet it is of great moment, and worth our endeavours, to teach the 
mind to get the mastery over itself, and to be able, upon choice, to 
take itself off from the hot pursuit of one thing, and set itself upon 
another with facility and delight, or at any time to shake of! its slug- 
gishness, and vigorously employ itself about what reason, or the ad- 
vice of another shall direct. This is to be done in children, by trying 
them sometimes, when they are by laziness unbent, or by avocation 
bent another way, and endeavouring to make them buckle to the 
thing propos'd. If by this means the mind can get an habitual 
dominion over itself, lay by ideas or business as occasion requires, 
and betake itself to new and less acceptable employments without 
reluctancy or discomposure, it will be an advantage of more conse- 



DISPOSITION 59 

quence than Latin or logick or most of those things children are 
usually requir'd to learn. 

76. Children being more active and busy in that age, than in any 
other part of their life, and being indifferent to any thing they can 
do, so they may be but doing, dancing and Scotch-hoppers would be 
the same thing to them, were the encouragements and discourage- 
ments equal. But to things we would have them learn, the great and 
only discouragement I can observe, is, that they are call'd to it, 'tis 
made their business, they are teaz'd and chid about it, and do it with 
trembling and apprehension; or, when they come willingly to it, are 
kept too long at it, till they are quite tir'd : all which intrenches too 
much on that natural freedom they extremely affect. And it is that 
liberty alone which gives the true relish and delight to their ordinary 
play-games. Turn the tables, and you will find they will soon change 
their application; especially if they see the examples of others whom 
they esteem and think above themselves. And if the things which 
they observe others to do, be order'd so, that they insinuate them- 
selves into them as the privilege of an age or condition above theirs; 
then ambition, and the desire still to get forward and higher, and 
to be like those above them, will set them on work, and make them 
go on with vigour and pleasure; pleasure in what they have begun by 
their own desire, in which way the enjoyment of their dearly beloved 
freedom will be no small encouragement to them. To all which, if 
there be added the satisfaction of credit and reputation, I am apt to 
think there will need no other spur to excite their application and 
assiduity, as much as is necessary. I confess, there needs patience 
and skill, gentleness and attention, and a prudent conduct to attain this 
at first. But why have you a tutor, if there needed no pains? But 
when this is once establish'd, all the rest will follow, more easily than 
in any more severe and imperious discipline. And I think it no hard 
matter to gain this point; I am sure it will not be, where children 
have no ill examples set before them. The great danger therefore, 
I apprehend, is only from servants, and other ill-order'd children, or 
such other vicious or foolish people, who spoil children both by the 
ill pattern they set before them in their own ill manners, and by 
giving them together the two things they should never have at 
once; I mean vicious pleasures and commendation. 



60 JOHN LOCKE 

77. As children should very seldom be corrected by blows, so I 
think frequent, and especially passionate chiding of almost as ill 
consequence. It lessens the authority of the parents, and the respect 
of the child; for I bid you still remember, they distinguish early be- 
twixt passion and reason: and as they cannot but have a reverence 
for what comes from the latter, so they quickly grow into a contempt 
of the former; or if it causes a present terror, yet it soon wears off, and 
natural inclination will easily learn to slight such scare-crows which 
make a noise, but are not animated by reason. Children being to be 
restrain'd by the parents only in vicious (which, in their tender years, 
are only a few) things, a look or nod only ought to correct them 
when they do amiss; or, if words are sometimes to be us'd, they 
ought to be grave, kind, and sober, representing the ill or unbecom- 
ingness of the faults, rather than a hasty rating of the child for it; 
which makes him not sufficiently distinguish, whether your dislike 
be not more directed to him than his fault. Passionate chiding usually 
carries rough and ill language with it, which has this farther ill effect, 
that it teaches and justifies it in children: and the names that their 
parents or praeceptors give them, they will not be asham'd or back- 
ward to bestow on others, having so good authority for the use of 
them. 

78. I foresee here it will be objected to me, what then, will you 
have children never beaten nor chid for any fault? This will be to 
let loose the reins to all kind of disorder. Not so much, as is 
imagin'd, if a right course has been taken in the first seasoning of 
their minds, and implanting that awe of their parents above men- 
tioned. For beating, by constant observation, is found to do little 
good, where the smart of it is all the punishment is fear'd or felt in 
it; for the influence of that quickly wears out, with the memory of it. 
But yet there is one, and but one fault, for which, I think, children 
should be beaten, and that is, obstinacy or rebellion. And in this too, 
I would have it order'd so, if it can be, that the shame of the whip- 
ping, and not the pain, should be the greatest part of the punishment. 
Shame of doing amiss, and deserving chastisement, is the only true 
restraint belonging to virtue. The smart of the rod, if shame accom- 
panies it not, soon ceases, and is forgotten, and will quickly by use 
lose its terror. I have known the children of a person of quality kept 



OBSTINACY 6l 

in awe by the fear of having their shoes pull'd off, as much as others 
by apprehensions of a rod hanging over them. Some such punish- 
ment I think better than beating; for 'tis shame of the fault, and the 
disgrace that attends it, that they should stand in fear of, rather 
than pain, if you would have them have a temper truly ingenuous. 
But stubbornness, and an obstinate disobedience, must be master'd 
with force and blows; for this there is no other remedy. Whatever 
particular action you bid him do, or forbear, you must be sure to see 
your self obey'd; no quarter in this case, no resistance: for when once 
it comes to be a trial of skill, a contest for mastery betwixt you, as it 
is if you command and he refuses, you must be sure to carry it, what- 
ever blows it costs, if a nod or words will not prevail; unless, for ever 
after, you intend to live in obedience to your son. A prudent and 
kind mother of my acquaintance, was, on such an occasion, forc'd 
to whip her little daughter, at her first coming home from nurse, 
eight times successively the same morning, before she could master 
her stubbornness, and obtain a compliance in a very easy and in- 
different matter. If she had left off sooner, and stopp'd at the seventh 
whipping, she had spoil'd the child for ever, and, by her unprevailing 
blows, only confirm'd her refractoriness, very hardly afterwards to be 
cur'd: but wisely persisting till she had bent her mind, and suppled 
her will, the only end of correction and chastisement, she establish'd 
her authority thoroughly in the very first occasions, and had ever 
after a very ready compliance and obedience in all things from her 
daughter; for as this was the first time, so I think it was the last too 
she ever struck her. 

The pain of the rod, the first occasion that requires it, continu'd 
and increas'd, without leaving off till it has throughly prevail'd, 
should first bend the mind, and settle the parent's authority; and 
then gravity, mix'd with kindness, should for ever after keep it. 

This, if well reflected on, would make people more wary in the use 
of the rod and the cudgel, and keep them from being so apt to think 
beating the safe and universal remedy to be apply'd at random on all 
occasions. This is certain, however, if it does no good, it does great 
harm; if it reaches not the mind, and makes not the will supple, it 
hardens the offender; and whatever pain he has suffer'd for it, does 
but endear him to his beloved stubbornness, which has got him this 



62 JOHN LOCKE 

time the victory, and prepares him to contest, and hope for it for the 
future. This I doubt not but by ill-order'd correction many have been 
taught to be obstinate and refractory who otherwise would have been 
very pliant and tractable. For if you punish a child so, as if it were 
only to revenge the past fault, which has rais'd your choler, what 
operation can this have upon his mind, which is the part to be 
amended? If there were no sturdy humor or wiljulness mix'd with 
his fault, there was nothing in it that requir'd the severity of blows. 
A kind or grave admonition is enough to remedy the slips of frailty, 
forgetfulness, or inadvertency, and is as much as they will stand in 
need of. But if there were a perverseness in the will, if it were a de- 
sign'd, resolv'd disobedience, the punishment is not to be measur'd 
by the greatness or smallness of the matter wherein it appear'd, but 
by the opposition it carries, and stands in, to that respect and submis- 
sion is due to the father's orders; which must always be rigorously 
exacted, and the blows by pauses laid on, till they reach the mind, 
and you perceive the signs of a true sorrow, shame, and purpose 
of obedience. 

This, I confess, requires something more than setting children a 
task, and whipping them without any more a-do if it be not done, 
and done to our fancy. This requires care, attention, observation, 
and a nice study of children's tempers, and weighing their faults 
well, before we come to this sort of punishment. But is not that better 
than always to have the rod in hand as the only instrument of gov- 
ernment ? And by frequent use of it on all occasions, misapply and 
render inefficacious this last and useful remedy, where there is need 
of it? For what else can be expected, when it is promiscuously us'd 
upon every little slip? When a mistake in concordance, or a wrong 
position in verse, shall have the severity of the lash, in a well-temper'd 
and industrious lad, as surely as a wilful crime in an obstinate and 
perverse offender; how can such a way of correction be expected to 
do good on the mind, and set that right ? Which is the only thing to 
be look'd after; and when set right, brings all the rest that you can 
desire along with it. 

79. Where a wrong bent of the will wants not amendment, there 
can be no need of blows. All other faults, where the mind is rightly 
dispos'd, and refuses not the government and authority of the father 



OBSTINACY 63 

or tutor, are but mistakes, and may often be overlooked; or when 
they are taken notice of, need no other but the gentle remedies of 
advice, direction, and reproof, till the repeated and wilful neglect of 
those, shews the fault to be in the mind, and that a manifest perverse- 
ness of the will lies at the root of their disobedience. But whenever 
obstinacy, which is an open defiance, appears, that cannot be wink'd 
at or neglected, but must, in the first instance, be subdu'd and mas- 
ter'd; only care must be had, that we mistake not and we must 
be sure it is obstinacy and nothing else. 

80. But since the occasions of punishment, especially beating, 
are as much to be avoided as may be, I think it should not be often 
brought to this point. If the awe I spoke of be once got, a look will 
be sufficient in most cases. Nor indeed should the same carriage, 
seriousness, or application be expected from young children as from 
those of riper growth. They must be permitted, as I said, the foolish 
and childish actions suitable to their years, without taking notice of 
them. Inadvertency, carelessness, and gayety, is the character of 
that age. I think the severity I spoke of is not to extend itself to such 
unseasonable restraints. Nor is that hastily to be interpreted obstin- 
acy or wilfulness, which is the natural product of their age or temper. 
In such miscarriages they are to be assisted, and help'd towards 
an amendment, as weak people under a natural infirmity; which, 
though they are warn'd of, yet every relapse must not be counted a 
perfect neglect, and they presently treated as obstinate. Faults of 
frailty, as they should never be neglected, or let pass without mind- 
ing, so, unless the will mix with them, they should never be exag- 
gerated, or very sharply reprov'd; but with a gentle hand set right, 
as time and age permit. By this means, children will come to see 
what 'tis in any miscarriage that is chiefly offensive, and so learn to 
avoid it. This will encourage them to keep their wills right; which 
is the great business, when they find that it preserves them from any 
great displeasure, and that in all their other failings they meet with 
the kind concern and help, rather than the anger and passionate re- 
proaches of their tutor and parents. Keep them from vice and vicious 
dispositions, and such a kind of behaviour in general will come with 
every degree of their age, as is suitable to that age and the company 
they ordinarily converse with; and as they grow in years, they will 



64 JOHN LOCKE 

grow in attention and application. But that your words may always 
carry weight and authority with them, if it shall happen, upon any 
occasion, that you bid him leave off the doing of any even childish 
things, you must be sure to carry the point, and not let him have the 
mastery. But yet, I say, I would have the father seldom interpose his 
authority and command in these cases, or in any other, but such as 
have a tendency to vicious habits. I think there are better ways of 
prevailing with them: and a gentle persuasion in reasoning, (when 
the first point of submission to your will is got) will most times do 
much better. 

81. It will perhaps be wonder'd, that I mention reasoning with 
children; and yet I cannot but think that the true way of dealing 
with them. They understand it as early as they do language; and, 
if I misobserve not, they love to be treated as rational creatures, 
sooner than is imagin'd. 'Tis a pride should be cherish'd in them, 
and, as much as can be, made the greatest instrument to turn 
them by. 

But when I talk of reasoning, I do not intend any other but such as 
is suited to the child's capacity and apprehension. No body can think 
a boy of three or seven years old should be argu'd with as a grown 
man. Long discourses, and philosophical reasonings, at best, amaze 
and confound, but do not instruct children. When I say, therefore, 
that they must be treated as rational creatures, I mean that you 
should make them sensible, by the mildness of your carriage, and the 
composure even in your correction of them, that what you do is 
reasonable in you, and useful and necessary for them; and that it is 
not out of caprichio, passion or fancy, that you command or forbid 
them any thing. This they are capable of understanding; and there 
is no virtue they should be excited to, nor fault they should be kept 
from, which I do not think they may be convinced of; but it must 
be by such reasons as their age and understandings are capable of, 
and those propos'd always in very jew and plain words. The founda- 
tions on which several duties are built, and the fountains of right and 
wrong from which they spring, are not perhaps easily to be let into 
the minds of grown men, not us'd to abstract their thoughts from 
common receiv'd opinions. Much less are children capable of rea- 
sonings from remote principles. They cannot conceive the force of 



REASONING 65 

long deductions. The reasons that move them must be obvious, and 
level to their thoughts, and such as may (if I may so say) be felt 
and touch'd. But yet, if their age, temper, and inclination be con- 
sider'd, there will never want such motives as may be sufficient to 
convince them. If there be no other more particular, yet these will 
always be intelligible, and of force, to deter them from any fault fit 
to be taken notice of in them, (viz.) That it will be a discredit and 
disgrace to them, and displease you. 

82. But of all the ways whereby children are to be instructed, 
and their manners formed, the plainest, easiest, and most efficacious, 
is, to set before their eyes the examples of those things you would 
have them do, or avoid; which, when they are pointed out to them, 
in the practice of persons within their knowledge, with some reflec- 
tions on their beauty and unbecomingness, are of more force to draw 
or deter their imitation, than any discourses which can be made to 
them. Virtues and vices can by no words be so plainly set before 
their understandings as the actions of other men will shew them, 
when you direct their observation, and bid them view this or that 
good or bad quality in their practice. And the beauty or uncomeli- 
ness of many things, in good and ill breeding, will be better learnt, 
and make deeper impressions on them, in the examples of others, 
than from any rules or instructions can be given about them. 

This is a method to be us'd, not only whilst they are young, but to be 
continu'd even as long as they shall be under another's tuition or 
conduct; nay, I know not whether it be not the best way to be us'd 
by a father, as long as he shall think fit, on any occasion, to reform 
any thing he wishes mended in his son; nothing sinking so gently, 
and so deep, into men's minds, as example. And what ill they either 
overlook or indulge in themselves, they cannot but dislike and be 
asham'd of, when it is set before them in another. 

83. It may be doubted, concerning whipping, when as the last 
remedy, it comes to be necessary, at what times, and by whom it 
should be done; whether presently upon the committing the fault, 
whilst it is yet fresh and hot; and whether parents themselves should 
beat their children. As to the first, I think it should not be done 
presently, lest passion mingle with it; and so, though it exceed the 
just proportion, yet it lose of its due weight: for even children dis- 



66 JOHN LOCKE 

cern when we do things in passion. But, as I said before, that has 
most weight with them, that appears sedately to come from their 
parents' reason; and they are not without this distinction. Next, if 
you have any discreet servant capable of it, and has the place of gov- 
erning your child (for if you have a tutor, there is no doubt) I think 
it is best the smart should come immediately from another's hand, 
though by the parent's order, who should see it done; whereby the 
parent's authority will be preserv'd, and the child's aversion, for the 
pain it suffers, rather to be turn'd on the person that immediately 
inflicts. For I would have a father seldom strife his child, but upon 
very urgent necessity, and as the last remedy; and then perhaps it 
will be fit to do it so that the child should not quickly forget it. 

84. But, as I said before, beating is the worst, and therefore the 
last means to be us'd in the correction of children, and that only in 
cases of extremity, after all gentle ways have been try'd, and prov'd 
unsuccessful; which, if well observ'd, there will be very seldom any 
need of blows. For, it not being to be imagin'd that a child will often, 
if ever, dispute his father's present command in any particular in- 
stance, and the father not interposing his absolute authority, in per- 
emptory rules, concerning either childish or indifferent actions, 
wherein his son is to have his liberty, or concerning his learning or 
improvement, wherein there is no compulsion to be us'd: there re- 
mains only the prohibition of some vicious actions, wherein a child is 
capable of obstinacy, and consequently can deserve beating; and so 
there will be but very few occasions of that discipline to be us'd 
by any one who considers well and orders his child's education as it 
should be. For the first seven years, what vices can a child be guilty 
of, but lying or some ill-natur'd tricks; the repeated commission 
whereof, after his father's direct command against it, shall bring 
him into the condemnation of obstinacy, and the chastisement of the 
rod ? If any vicious inclination in him be, in the first appearance and 
instances of it, treated as it should be, first with your wonder, and 
then, if returning again, a second time discountenanc'd with the 
severe brow of a father, tutor, and all about him, and a treatment 
suitable to the state of discredit before-mention'd; and this continu'd 
till he be made sensible and asham'd of his fault, I imagine there 
will be no need of any other correction, nor ever any occasion to come 



WHIPPING 67 

to blows. The necessity of such chastisement is usually the conse- 
quence only of former indulgences or neglects : If vicious inclinations 
were watch'd from the beginning, and the first irregularities which 
they cause, corrected by those gentler ways, we should seldom have 
to do with more than one disorder at once; which would be easily 
set right without any stir or noise, and not require so harsh a dis- 
cipline as beating. Thus one by one as they appear'd, they might all 
be weeded out, without any signs or memory that ever they had been 
there. But we letting their faults (by indulging and humouring our 
little ones) grow up, till they are sturdy and numerous, and the 
deformity of them makes us asham'd and uneasy, we are fain to 
come to the plough and the harrow; the spade and the pick-ax must 
go deep to come at the roots; and all the force, skill, and diligence we 
can use, is scarce enough to cleanse the vitiated seed-plat, overgrown 
with weeds, and restore us the hopes of fruits, to reward our pains 
in its season. 

85. This course, if observed, will spare both father and child the 
trouble of repeated injunctions, and multiply 'd rules of doing and 
forbearing. For I am of opinion, that of those actions which tend to 
vicious habits, (which are those alone that a father should interpose 
his authority and commands in) none should be forbidden children 
till they are found guilty of them. For such untimely prohibitions, 
if they do nothing worse, do at least so much towards teaching and 
allowing 'em, that they suppose that children may be guilty of them, 
who would possibly be safer in the ignorance of any such faults. 
And the best remedy to stop them, is, as I have said, to shew wonder 
and amazement at any such action as hath a vicious tendency, when 
it is first taken notice of in a child. For example, when he is first 
found in a lie, or any ill-natur'd trick, the first remedy should be, to 
talk to him of it as a strange monstrous matter, that it could not be 
imagin'd he would have done, and so shame him out of it. 

86. It will be ('tis like) objected, that whatsoever I fancy of the 
tractableness of children, and the prevalency of those softer ways 
of shame and commendation; yet there are many who will never 
apply themselves to their books, and to what they ought to learn, 
unless they are scourg'd to it. This, I fear, is nothing but the language 
of ordinary schools and fashion, which have never suffer'd the other 



68 JOHN LOCKE 

to be try'd as it should be, in places where it could be taken notice 
of. Why, else, does the learning of Latin and Greek need the rod, 
when French and Italian need it not? Children learn to dance and 
fence without whipping; nay, Arithmetick, drawing, &c. they apply 
themselves well enough to without beating: which would make one 
suspect, that there is something strange, unnatural, and disagreeable 
to that Age, in the things required in grammar-schools, or in the 
methods us'd there, that children cannot be brought to, without the 
severity of the lash, and hardly with that too; or else, that it is a 
mistake, that those tongues could not be taught them without 
beating. 

87. But let us suppose some so negligent or idle, that they will 
not be brought to learn by the gentle ways propos'd, (for we must 
grant, that there will be children found of all tempers,) yet it does 
not thence follow, that the rough discipline of the cudgel is to be 
us'd to all. Nor can any one be concluded unmanageable by the 
milder methods of government, till they have been thoroughly try'd 
upon him; and if they will not prevail with him to use his en- 
deavours, and do what is in his power to do, we make no excuses 
for the obstinate. Blows are the proper remedies for those; but blows 
laid on in a way different from the ordinary. He that wilfully neg- 
lects his book, and stubbornly refuses any thing he can do, requir'd of 
him by his father, expressing himself in a positive serious command, 
should not be corrected with two or three angry lashes, for not per- 
forming his task, and the same punishment repeated again and again 
upon every the like default; but when it is brought to that pass, that 
wilfulness evidently shews itself, and makes blows necessary, I think 
the chastisement should be a little more sedate, and a little more 
severe, and the whipping (mingled with admonition between) so 
continu'd, till the impressions of it on the mind were found legible 
in the face, voice, and submission of the child, not so sensible of the 
smart as of the fault he has been guilty of, and melting in true sorrow 
under it. If such a correction as this, try'd some few times at fit dis- 
tances, and carry 'd to the utmost severity, with the visible displeasure 
of the father all the while, will not work the effect, turn the mind, 
and produce a future compliance, what can be hop'd from blows, 
and to what purpose should they be any more us'd? Beating, when 



TUTOR 69 

you can expect no good from it, will look more like the fury of an 
enrag'd enemy, than the good- will of a compassionate friend; and 
such chastisement carries with it only provocation, without any pros- 
pect of amendment. If it be any father's misfortune to have a son thus 
perverse and untractable, I know not what more he can do but 
pray for him. But, I imagine, if a right course be taken with children 
from the beginning, very few will be found to be such; and when 
there are any such instances, they are not to be the rule for the 
education of those who are better natur'd, and may be manag'd with 
better usage. 

88. If a tutor can be got, that, thinking himself in the father's 
place, charg'd with his care, and relishing these things, will at the 
beginning apply himself to put them in practice, he will afterwards 
find his work very easy; and you will, I guess, have your son in a 
little time a greater proficient in both learning and breeding than per- 
haps you imagine. But let him by no means beat him at any time 
without your consent and direction; at least till you have experience 
of his discretion and temper. But yet, to keep up his authority with 
his pupil, besides concealing that he has not the power of the rod, 
you must be sure to use him with great respect yourself, and cause 
all your family to do so too: for you cannot expect your son should 
have any regard for one whom he sees you, or his mother, or others 
slight. If you think him worthy of contempt, you have chosen amiss; 
and if you shew any contempt of him, he will hardly escape it from 
your son: and whenever that happens, whatever worth he may have 
in himself, and abilities for this employment, they are all lost to your 
child, and can afterwards never be made useful to him. 

89. As the father's example must teach the child respect for his 
tutor, so the tutor's example must lead the child into those actions 
he would have him do. His practice must by no means cross his 
precepts, unless he intend to set him wrong. It will be to no purpose 
for the tutor to talk of the restraint of the passions whilst any of his 
own are let loose; and he will in vain endeavour to reform any vice 
or indecency in his pupil, which he allows in himself. Ill patterns 
are sure to be follow'd more than good rules; and therefore he must 
always carefully preserve him from the influence of ill precedents, 
especially the most dangerous of all, the examples of the servants; 



70 JOHN LOCKE 

from whose company he is to be kept, not by prohibitions, for that 
will but give him an itch after it, but by other ways I have mentioned. 
90. In all the whole business of education, there is nothing like 
to be less hearken'd to, or harder to be well observ'd, than what I am 
now going to say; and that is, that children should, from their first 
beginning to talk, have some discreet, sober, nay, wise person about 
them, whose care it should be to fashion them aright, and keep them 
from all ill, especially the infection of bad company. I think this 
province requires great sobriety, temperance, tenderness, diligence, 
and discretion; qualities hardly to be found united in persons that 
are to be had for ordinary salaries, nor easily to be found any where. 
As to the charge of it, I think it will be the money best laid out that 
can be, about our children; and therefore, though it may be expen- 
sive more than is ordinary, yet it cannot be thought dear. He that at 
any rate procures his child a good mind, well-principled, temper'd 
to virtue and usefulness, and adorn'd with civility and good breed- 
ing, makes a better purchase for him than if he laid out the money 
for an addition of more earth to his former acres. Spare it in toys 
and play-games, in silk and ribbons, laces, and other useless ex- 
penses, as much as you please; but be not sparing in so necessary a 
part as this. 'Tis not good husbandry to make his fortune rich, and 
his mind poor. I have often with great admiration seen people lavish 
it profusely in tricking up their children in fine clothes, lodging and 
feeding them sumptuously, allowing them more than enough of 
useless servants, and yet at the same time starve their minds, and 
not take sufficient care to cover that which is the most shameful 
nakedness, viz. their natural wrong inclinations and ignorance. This 
I can look on as no other than a sacrificing to their own vanity, it 
shewing more their pride than true care of the good of their 
children; whatsoever you employ to the advantage of your son's 
mind, will shew your true kindness, tho' it be to the lessening of his 
estate. A wise and good man can hardly want either the opinion or 
reality of being great and happy; but he that is foolish or vicious, 
can be neither great nor happy, what estate soever you leave him: 
and I ask you whether there be not men in the world, whom you had 
rather have your son be with five hundred pounds per annum, than 
some other you know with five thousand pounds. 



GOVERNOR 71 

91. The consideration of charge ought not therefore to deter 
those who are able. The great difficulty will be where to find a 
proper person: for those of small age, parts, and virtue, are unfit for 
this employment, and those that have greater, will hardly be got to 
undertake such a charge. You must therefore look out early, and 
enquire every where; for the world has people of all sorts. And I 
remember, Montaigne says in one of his essays, that the learned 
Castalio was fain to make trenchers at Basle, to keep himself from 
starving, when his father would have given any money for such a 
tutor for his son, and Castalio have willingly embrac'd such an em- 
ployment upon very reasonable terms; but this was for want of 
intelligence. 

92. If you find it difficult to meet with such a tutor as we desire, 
you are not to wonder. I only can say, spare no care nor cost to get 
such an one. All things are to be had that way: and I dare assure 
you, that if you can get a good one, you will never repent the charge; 
but will always have the satisfaction to think it the money of all 
other the best laid out. But be sure take no body upon friends, or 
charity, no, nor upon great commendations. Nay, if you will do as 
you ought, the reputation of a sober man, with a good stock of 
learning, (which is all usually requir'd in a tutor) will not be enough 
to serve your turn. In this choice be as curious as you would be in 
that of a wife for him; for you must not think of trial or changing 
afterwards: This will cause great inconvenience to you, and greater 
to your son. When I consider the scruples and cautions I here lay 
in your way, methinks it looks as if I advis'd you to something which 
I would have off er'd at, but in effect not done. But he that shall con- 
sider how much the business of a tutor, rightly employ'd, lies out of 
the road, and how remote it is from the thoughts of many, even of 
those who propose to themselves this employment, will perhaps be of 
my mind, that one fit to educate and form the mind of a young gen- 
tleman is not everywhere to be found, and that more than ordinary 
care is to be taken in the choice of him, or else you may fail of your 
end. 

93. The character of a sober man and a scholar is, as I have above 
observ'd, what every one expects in a tutor. This generally is thought 
enough, and is all that parents commonly look for : But when such 



72 JOHN LOCKE 

an one has empty'd out into his pupil all the Latin and logick he has 
brought from the university, will that furniture make him a fine 
gentleman ? Or can it be expected, that he should be better bred, 
better skilPd in the world, better principled in the grounds and 
foundations of true virtue and generosity, than his young tutor is? 

To form a young gentleman as he should be, 'tis fit his governor 
should himself be well-bred, understanding the ways of carriage and 
measures of civility in all the variety of persons, times, and places; 
and keep his pupil, as much as his age requires, constantly to the 
observation of them. This is an art not to be learnt nor taught by 
books. Nothing can give it but good company and observation join'd 
together. The taylor may make his clothes modish, and the dancing- 
master give fashion to his motions; yet neither of these, tho' they set 
off well, make a well-bred gentleman: no, tho' he have learning to 
boot, which, if not well manag'd, makes him more impertinent and 
intolerable in conversation. Breeding is that which sets a gloss upon 
all his other good qualities, and renders them useful to him, in pro- 
curing him the esteem and good-will of all that he comes near. 
Without good breeding his other accomplishments make him pass 
but for proud, conceited, vain, or foolish. 

Courage in an ill-bred man has the air and escapes not the opinion 
of brutality: Learning becomes pedantry; wit, buffoonery; plainness, 
rusticity; good nature, fawning. And there cannot be a good quality 
in him, which want of breeding will not warp and disfigure to his 
disadvantage. Nay, virtue and parts, though they are allow'd their 
due commendation, yet are not enough to procure a man a good 
reception, and make him welcome wherever he comes. No body 
contents himself with rough diamonds, and wears them so, who 
would appear with advantage. When they are polish'd and set, then 
they give a lustre. Good qualities are the substantial riches of the 
mind, but 'tis good breeding sets them off: and he that will be ac- 
ceptable, must give beauty, as well as strength, to his actions. Solidity, 
or even usefulness, is not enough: a graceful way and fashion in 
every thing, is that which gives the ornament and liking. And in 
most cases, the manner of doing is of more consequence than the 
thing done; and upon that depends the satisfaction or disgust where- 
with it is receiv'd. This therefore, which lies not in the putting off 



TUTOR 73 

the hat, nor making of compliments, but in a due and free com- 
posure of language, looks, motion, posture, place, &c. suited to per- 
sons and occasions, and can be learn'd only by habit and use, though 
it be above the capacity of children, and little ones should not be 
perplex'd about it, yet it ought to be begun and in a good measure 
learn'd by a young gentleman whilst he is under a tutor, before he 
comes into the world upon his own legs: for then usually it is too 
late to hope to reform several habitual indecencies, which lie in 
little things. For the carriage is not as it should be, till it is become 
natural in every part, falling, as skilful musicians' fingers do, into 
harmonious order without care and without thought. If in conversa- 
tion a man's mind be taken up with a solicitous watchfulness about 
any part of his behaviour; instead of being mended by it, it will be 
constrain'd, uneasy, and ungraceful. 

Besides, this part is most necessary to be form'd by the hand and 
care of a governor, because, though the errors committed in breed- 
ing are the first that are taken notice of by others, yet they are the 
last that any one is told of; not but that the malice of the world is 
forward enough to tattle of them; but it is always out of his hearing, 
who should make profit of their judgment and reform himself 
by their censure. And indeed, this is so nice a point to be meddled 
with, that even those who are friends, and wish it were mended, 
scarce ever dare mention it, and tell those they love that they are 
guilty in such or such cases of ill breeding. Errors in other things may 
often with civility be shewn another; and 'tis no breach of good 
manners or friendship to set him right in other mistakes; but good 
breeding itself allows not a man to touch upon this, or to insinuate 
to another that he is guilty of want of breeding. Such information 
can come only from those who have authority over them; and from 
them too it comes very hardly and harshly to a grown man; and 
however soften'd, goes but ill down with any one who has liv'd ever 
so little in the world. Wherefore it is necessary that this part should 
be the governor's principal care, that an habitual gracefulness, and 
politeness in all his carriage, may be settled in his charge, as much as 
may be, before he goes out of his hands; and that he may not need 
advice in this point when he has neither time nor disposition to 
receive it, nor has any body left to give it him. The tutor therefore 



74 JOHN LOCKE 

ought in the first place to be well-bred : and a young gentleman, who 
gets this one qualification from his governor, sets out with great 
advantage, and will find that this one accomplishment will more open 
his way to him, get him more friends, and carry him farther in the 
world, than all the hard words or real knowledge he has got from the 
liberal arts, or his tutors learned encyclopaedia: not that those should 
be neglected, but by no means preferr'd, or suffer'd to thrust out 
the other. 

94. Besides being well-bred, the tutor should know the world 
well; the ways, the humours, the follies, the cheats, the faults of the 
age he is fallen into, and particularly of the country he lives in. 
These he should be able to shew to his pupil, as he finds him capable; 
teach him skill in men, and their manners; pull off the mask which 
their several callings and pretences cover them with, and make his 
pupil discern what lies at the bottom under such appearances, that 
he may not, as unexperienc'd young men are apt to do if they are 
unwarn'd, take one thing for another, judge by the outside, and give 
himself up to shew, and the insinuation of a fair carriage, or an 
obliging application. A governor should teach his scholar to guess 
at and beware of the designs of men he hath to do with, neither 
with too much suspicion, nor too much confidence; but as the young 
man is by nature most inclin'd to either side, rectify him, and bend 
him the other way. He should accustom him to make, as much as is 
possible, a true judgment of men by those marks which serve best 
to shew what they are, and give a prospect into their inside, which 
often shows itself in little things, especially when they are not in 
parade, and upon their guard. He should acquaint him with the true 
state of the world, and dispose him to think no man better or worse, 
wiser or f oolisher, than he really is. Thus, by safe and insensible 
degrees, he will pass from a boy to a man; which is the most 
hazardous step in all the whole course of life. This therefore should 
be carefully watch'd, and a young man with great diligence handed 
over it; and not as now usually is done, be taken from a governor s 
conduct, and all at once thrown into the world under his own, not 
without manifest dangers of immediate spoiling; there being nothing 
more frequent than instances of the great looseness, extravagancy, 
and debauchery, which young men have run into as soon as they 



TUTOR 75 

have been let loose from a severe and strict education : Which I think 
may be chiefly imputed to their wrong way of breeding, especially in 
this part; for having been bred up in a great ignorance of what the 
world truly is, and finding it a quite other thing, when they come 
into it, than what they were taught it should be, and so imagin'd it 
was, are easily persuaded, by other kind of tutors, which they are 
sure to meet with, that the discipline they were kept under, and the 
lectures read to them, were but the formalities of education and the 
restraints of childhood; that the freedom belonging to men is to take 
their swing in a full enjoyment of what was before forbidden them. 
They shew the young novice the world full of fashionable and glit- 
tering examples of this every where, and he is presently dazzled 
with them. My young master failing not to be willing to shew him- 
self a man, as much as any of the sparks of his years, lets himself 
loose to all the irregularities he finds in the most debauch'd; and 
thus courts credit and manliness in the casting of! the modesty and 
sobriety he has till then been kept in; and thinks it brave, at his first 
setting out, to signalize himself in running counter to all the rules 
of virtue which have been preach'd to him by his tutor. 

The shewing him the world as really it is, before he comes wholly 
into it, is one of the best means, I think, to prevent this mischief. 
He should by degrees be informed of the vices in fashion, and warned 
of the applications and designs of those who will make it their busi- 
ness to corrupt him. He should be told the arts they use, and the 
trains they lay; and now and then have set before him the tragical 
or ridiculous examples of those who are ruining or ruin'd this way. 
The age is not like to want instances of this kind, which should be 
made land-marks to him, that by the disgraces, diseases, beggary, 
and shame of hopeful young men thus brought to ruin, he may be 
precaution'd, and be made see, how those join in the contempt and 
neglect of them that are undone, who, by pretences of friendship and 
respect, lead them to it, and help to prey upon them whilst they were 
undoing; that he may see, before he buys it by a too dear experience, 
that those who persuade him not to follow the sober advices he has 
receiv'd from his governors, and the counsel of his own reason, which 
they call being govern'd by others, do it only that they may have the 
government of him themselves; and make him believe, he goes 



76 JOHN LOCKE 

like a man of himself, by his own conduct, and for his own pleasure, 
when in truth he is wholly as a child led by them into those vices 
which best serve their purposes. This is a knowledge which, upon 
all occasions, a tutor should endeavour to instil, and by all methods 
try to make him comprehend, and thoroughly relish. 

I know it is often said, that to discover to a young man the vices 
of the age is to teach them him. That, I confess, is a good deal so, 
according as it is done; and therefore requires a discreet man of 
parts, who knows the world, and can judge of the temper, inclina- 
tion, and weak side of his pupil. This farther is to be remember'd, 
that it is not possible now (as perhaps formerly it was) to keep a 
young gentleman from vice by a total ignorance of it, unless you 
will all his life mew him up in a closet, and never let him go into 
company. The longer he is kept thus hoodwink'd, the less he will 
see when he comes abroad into open daylight, and be the more 
expos'd to be a prey to himself and others. And an old boy, at his first 
appearance, with all the gravity of his ivy-bush about him, is sure 
to draw on him the eyes and chirping of the whole town volery; 
amongst which there will not be wanting some birds of prey, that 
will presently be on the wing for him. 

The only fence against the world, is, a thorough knowledge of it, 
into which a young gentleman should be enter'd by degrees, as he 
can bear it; and the earlier the better, so he be in safe and skilful 
hands to guide him. The scene should be gently open'd, and his 
entrance made step by step, and the dangers pointed out that at- 
tend him from the several degrees, tempers, designs, and clubs of 
men. He should be prepar'd to be shock'd by some, and caress'd by 
others; warn'd who are like to oppose, who to mislead, who to under- 
mine him, and who to serve him. He should be instructed how to 
know and distinguish them; where he should let them see, and 
when dissemble the knowledge of them and their aims and work- 
ings. And if he be too forward to venture upon his own strength 
and skill, the perplexity and trouble of a misadventure now and then, 
that reaches not his innocence, his health, or reputation, may not be 
an ill way to teach him more caution. 

This, I confess, containing one great part of wisdom, is not the 
product of some superficial thoughts, or much reading; but the effect 



TUTOR 77 

of experience and observation in a man who has liv'd in the world 
with his eyes open, and convers'd with men of all sorts. And there- 
fore I think it of most value to be instill'd into a young man upon all 
occasions which offer themselves, that when he comes to launch into 
the deep himself, he may not be like one at sea without a line, com- 
pass or sea-chart; but may have some notice before-hand of the rocks 
and shoals, the currents and quick-sands, and know a little how to 
steer, that he sink not before he get experience. He that thinks not 
this of more moment to his son, and for which he more needs a 
governor, than the languages and learned sciences, forgets of how 
much more use it is to judge right of men, and manage his affairs 
wisely with them, than to speak Greet^ and Latin, or argue in mood 
and figure; or to have his head fill'd with the abstruse speculations of 
natural philosophy and metaphysicks; nay, than to be well vers'd in 
Gree^ and Roman writers, though that be much better for a gentle- 
man than to be a good Peripatetick or Cartesian, because those 
antient authors observ'd and painted mankind well, and give the 
best light into that kind of knowledge. He that goes into the eastern 
parts of Asia, will find able and acceptable men without any of these; 
but without virtue, knowledge of the world, and civility, an accom- 
plish'd and valuable man can be found no where. 

A great part of the learning now in fashion in the schools of 
Europe, and that goes ordinarily into the round of education, a gen- 
tleman may in a good measure be unfurnish'd with, without any 
great disparagement to himself or prejudice to his affairs. But pru- 
dence and good breeding are in all the stations and occurrences of 
life necessary; and most young men suffer in the want of them, and 
come rawer and more awkward into the world than they should, 
for this very reason, because these qualities, which are of all other 
the most necessary to be taught, and stand most in need of the assis- 
tance and help of a teacher, are generally neglected and thought but 
a slight or no part of a tutor's business. Latin and learning make all 
the noise; and the main stress is laid upon his proficiency in things a 
great part whereof belong not to a gentleman's calling; which is to 
have the knowledge of a man of business, a carriage suitable to his 
rank, and to be eminent and useful in his country, according to his 
station. Whenever either spare hours from that, or an inclination 



78 JOHN LOCKE 

to perfect himself in some parts of knowledge, which his tutor did 
but just enter him in, set him upon any study, the first rudiments of 
it, which he learn'd before, will open the way enough for his own 
industry to carry him as far as his fancy will prompt, or his parts 
enable him to go. Or, if he thinks it may save his time and pains 
to be help'd over some difficulties by the hand of a master, he may 
then take a man that is perfectly well skilled in it, or chuse such an 
one as he thinks fittest for his purpose. But to initiate his pupil in 
any part of learning, as far as is necessary for a young man in the 
ordinary course of his studies, an ordinary skill in the governor is 
enough. Nor is it requisite that he should be a thorough scholar, or 
possess in perfection all those sciences which 'tis convenient a young 
gentleman should have a taste of in some general view, or short 
system. A gentleman that would penetrate deeper must do it by his 
own genius and industry afterwards: For no body ever went far in 
knowledge, or became eminent in any of the sciences, by the dis- 
cipline and constraint of a master. 

The great work of a governor, is to fashion the carriage, and form 
the mind; to settle in his pupil good habits and the principles oi 
virtue and wisdom; to give him by little and little a view of man- 
kind, and work him into a love and imitation of what is excellent 
and praise- worthy ; and, in the prosecution of it, to give him vigour 
activity, and industry. The studies which he sets him upon, are but 
as it were the exercises of his faculties, and employment of his time 
to keep him from sauntering and idleness, to teach him application 
and accustom him to take pains, and to give him some little taste 
of what his own industry must perfect. For who expects, that under 
a tutor a young gentleman should be an accomplish'd critick, orator, 
or logician ? go to the bottom of metaphysicks, natural philosophy, or 
mathematicks ? or be a master in history or chronology? though 
something of each of these is to be taught him : But it is only to open 
the door, that he may look in, and as it were begin an acquaintance 
but not to dwell there: And a governor would be much blam'd that 
should keep his pupil too long, and lead him too far in most of them 
But of good breeding, knowledge of the world, virtue, industry, and 
a love of reputation, he cannot have too much : And if he have these, 
he will not long want what he needs or desires of the other. 



TUTOR 79 

And since it cannot be hop'd he should have time and strength to 
learn all things, most pains should be taken about that which is most 
necessary; and that principally look'd after which will be of most 
and frequentest use to him in the world. 

Seneca complains of the contrary practice in his time; and yet the 
Burgursdicius's and the Scheiblers did not swarm in those days as 
they do now in these. What would he have thought if he had liv'd 
now, when the tutors think it their great business to fill the studies 
and heads of their pupils with such authors as these? He would 
have had much more reason to say, as he does, non vitce sed scholce 
discimus, we learn not to live, but to dispute; and our education fits 
us rather for the university than the world. But 'tis no wonder if 
those who make the fashion suit it to what they have, and not to 
what their pupils want. The fashion being once establish'd, who can 
think it strange, that in this, as well as in all other things, it should 
prevail ? And that the greatest part of those, who find their account 
in an easy submission to it, should be ready to cry out, Heresy, when 
any one departs from it? 'Tis nevertheless matter of astonishment 
that men of quality and parts should suffer themselves to be so far 
misled by custom and implicit faith. Reason, if consulted with, 
would advise, that their children's time should be spent in acquiring 
what might be useful to them when they come to be men, rather than 
to have their heads stufFd with a deal of trash, a great part whereof 
they usually never do ('tis certain they never need to) think on again 
as long as they live: and so much of it as does stick by them they are 
only the worse for. This is so well known, that I appeal to parents 
themselves, who have been at cost to have their young heirs taught 
it, whether it be not ridiculous for their sons to have any tincture of 
that sort of learning, when they come abroad into the world ? whether 
any appearance of it would not lessen and disgrace them in com- 
pany ? And that certainly must be an admirable acquisition, and de- 
serves well to make a part in education, which men are asham'd of 
where they are most concern'd to shew their parts and breeding. 

There is yet another reason why politeness of manners, and knowl- 
edge of the world should principally be look'd after in a tutor; and 
that is, because a man of parts and years may enter a lad far enough 
in any of those sciences, which he has no deep insight into himself. 



80 JOHN LOCKE 

Books in these will be able to furnish him, and give him light and 
precedency enough to go before a young follower : but he will never 
be able to set another right in the knowledge of the world, and above 
all in breeding, who is a novice in them himself. 

This is a knowledge he must have about him, worn into him by 
use and conversation and a long forming himself by what he has 
observ'd to be practis'd and allow'd in the best company. This, if he 
has it not of his own, is no where to be borrowed for the use of his 
pupil; or if he could find pertinent treatises of it in books that would 
reach all the particulars of an English gentleman's behaviour, his 
own ill-fashion'd example, if he be not well-bred himself, would 
spoil all his lectures; it being impossible, that any one should come 
forth well-fashion'd out of unpolish'd, ill-bred company. 

I say this, not that I think such a tutor is every day to be met with, 
or to be had at the ordinary rates; but that those who are able, may 
not be sparing of enquiry or cost in what is of so great moment; and 
that other parents, whose estates will not reach to greater salaries, 
may yet remember what they should principally have an eye to in 
the choice of one to whom they would commit the education of 
their children; and what part they should chiefly look after them- 
selves, whilst they are under their care, and as often as they come 
within their observation; and not think that all lies in Latin and 
French or some dry systems of logick and philosophy. 

95. But to return to our method again. Though I have men- 
tion'd the severity of the father's brow, and the awe settled thereby 
in the mind of children when young, as one main instrument 
whereby their education is to be manag'd; yet I am far from being 
of an opinion that it should be continu'd all along to them, whilst 
they are under the discipline and government of pupilage; I think 
it should be relax'd, as fast as their age, discretion and good behaviour 
could allow it; even to that degree, that a father will do well, as his 
son grows up, and is capable of it, to tal]^ familiarly with him; nay, 
asl^ his advice, and consult with him about those things wherein he 
has any knowledge or understanding. By this, the father will gain 
two things, both of great moment. The one is, that it will put serious 
considerations into his son's thoughts, better than any rules or advices 
he can give him. The sooner you treat him as a man, the sooner he 



FAMILIARITY 8 1 

will begin to be one: and if you admit him into serious discourses 
sometimes with you, you will insensibly raise his mind above the 
usual amusements of youth, and those trifling occupations which it 
is commonly wasted in. For it is easy to observe, that many young 
men continue longer in the thought and conversation of school-boys 
than otherwise they would, because their parents keep them at that 
distance, and in that low rank, by all their carriage to them. 

96. Another thing of greater consequence, which you will obtain 
by such a way of treating him, will be his friendship. Many fathers, 
though they proportion to their sons liberal allowances, according to 
their age and condition, yet they keep the knowledge of their es- 
tates and concerns from them with as much reservedness as if they 
were guarding a secret of state from a spy or an enemy. This, if it 
looks not like jealousy, yet it wants those marks of kindness and 
intimacy which a father should shew to his son, and no doubt often 
hinders or abates that chearfulness and satisfaction wherewith a son 
should address himself to and rely upon his father. And I cannot 
but often wonder to see fathers who love their sons very well, yet so 
order the matter by a constant stiffness and a mien of authority and 
distance to them all their lives, as if they were never to enjoy, or have 
any comfort from those they love best in the world, till they had lost 
them by being remov'd into another. Nothing cements and estab- 
lishes friendship and good-will so much as confident communication 
of concernments and affairs. Other kindnesses, without this, leave 
still some doubts: but when your son sees you open your mind to 
him, when he finds that you interest him in your affairs, as things 
you are willing should in their turn come into his hands, he will be 
concern'd for them as for his own, wait his season with patience, and 
love you in the mean time, who keep him not at the distance of a 
stranger. This will also make him see, that the enjoyment you have, 
is not without care; which the more he is sensible of, the less will 
he envy you the possession, and the more think himself happy under 
the management of so favourable a friend and so careful a father. 
There is scarce any young man of so little thought, or so void of 
sense, that would not be glad of a sure friend, that he might have 
recourse to, and freely consult on occasion. The reservedness and 
distance that fathers keep, often deprive their sons of that refuge 



82 JOHN LOCKE 

which would be o more advantage to them than an hundred re- 
bukes and chidings. Would your son engage in some frolick, or take 
a vagary, were it not much better he should do it with, than without 
your knowledge ? For since allowances for such things must be made 
to young men, the more you know o his intrigues and designs, the 
better will you be able to prevent great mischiefs; and by letting him 
see what is like to follow, take the right way of prevailing with him 
to avoid less inconveniences. Would you have him open his heart 
to you, and ask your advice ? you must begin to do so with him first, 
and by your carriage beget that confidence. 

97. But whatever he consults you about, unless it lead to some 
fatal and irremediable mischief, be sure you advise only as a friend 
of more experience; but with your advice mingle nothing of com- 
mand or authority, nor more than you would to your equal or a 
stranger. That would be to drive him for ever from any farther de- 
manding, or receiving advantage from your counsel. You must con- 
sider that he is a young man, and has pleasures and fancies which 
you are pass'd. You must not expect his inclination should be just 
as yours, nor that at twenty he should have the same thoughts you 
have at fifty. All that you can wish, is, that since youth must have 
some liberty, some outleaps, they might be with the ingenuity of a 
son, and under the eye of a father, and then no very great harm can 
come of it. The way to obtain this, as I said before, is (according 
as you find him capable) to talk with him about your affairs, propose 
matters to him familiarly, and ask his advice; and when he ever 
lights on the right, follow it as his; and if it succeed well, let him have 
the commendation. This will not at all lessen your authority, but 
increase his love and esteem of you. Whilst you keep your estate, 
the star? will be in your own hands; and your authority the surer, 
the more it is strengthen'd with confidence and kindness. For you 
have not that power you ought to have over him, till he comes to be 
more afraid of offending so good a friend than of losing some part of 
his future expectation. 

98. Familiarity of discourse, if it can become a father to his son, 
may much more be condescended to by a tutor to his pupil. All their 
time together should not be spent in reading of lectures, and magis- 
terially dictating to him what he is to observe and follow. Hearing 



FAMILIARITY 83 

him in his turn, and using him to reason about what is propos'd, 
will make the rules go down the easier and sink the deeper, and will 
give him a liking to study and instruction : And he will then begin to 
value knowledge, when he sees that it enables him to discourse, and 
he finds the pleasure and credit of bearing a part in the conversation, 
and of having his reasons sometimes approv'd and hearken'd to; par- 
ticularly in morality, prudence, and breeding, cases should be put to 
him, and his judgment ask'd. This opens the understanding better 
than maxims, how well soever explain'd, and settles the rules better 
in the memory for practice. This way lets things into the mind 
which stick there, and retain their evidence with them; whereas 
words at best are faint representations, being not so much as the true 
shadows of things, and are much sooner forgotten. He will better 
comprehend the foundations and measures of decency and justice, 
and have livelier, and more lasting impressions of what he ought to 
do, by giving his opinion on cases propos'd, and reasoning with his 
tutor on fit instances, than by giving a silent, negligent, sleepy au- 
dience to his tutor's lectures; and much more than by captious logical 
disputes, or set declamations of his own, upon any question. The one 
sets the thoughts upon wit and false colours, and not upon truth; 
the other teaches fallacy, wrangling, and opiniatry; and they are both 
of them things that spoil the judgment, and put a man out of the 
way of right and fair reasoning; and therefore carefully to be avoided 
by one who would improve himself, and be acceptable to others. 

99. When by making your son sensible that he depends on you, 
and is in your power, you have established your authority; and by 
being inflexibly severe in your carriage to him when obstinately per- 
sisting in any ill-natur'd trick which you have forbidden, especially 
lying, you have imprinted on his mind that awe which is necessary; 
and, on the other side, when (by permitting him the full liberty due 
to his age, and laying no restraint in your presence to those childish 
actions and gaiety of carriage, which, whilst he is very young, is as 
necessary to him as meat or sleep) you have reconcil'd him to your 
company, and made him sensible of your care and love of him, by 
indulgence and tenderness, especially caressing him on all occasions 
wherein he does any thing well, and being kind to him after a thou- 
sand fashions suitable to his age, which nature teaches parents better 



04 JOHN LOCKE 

than I can : When, I say, by these ways of tenderness and affection, 
which parents never want for their children, you have also planted in 
him a particular affection for you; he is then in the state you could 
desire, and you have form'd in his mind that true reverence which is 
always afterwards carefully to be continu'd, and maintain'd in both 
parts of it, love, and fear, as the great principles whereby you will 
always have hold upon him, to turn his mind to the ways of virtue 
and honour. 

100. When this foundation is once well lay'd, and you find this 
reverence begin to work in him, the next thing to be done, is care- 
fully to consider his temper, and the particular constitution of his 
mind. Stubbornness, lying, and ill-natur'd actions, are not (as has 
been said) to be permitted in him from the beginning, whatever his 
temper be. Those seeds of vices are not to be suffer'd to take any 
root, but must be carefully weeded out, as soon as ever they begin 
to shew themselves in him; and your authority is to take place and 
influence his mind, from the very dawning of any knowledge in 
him, that it may operate as a natural principle, whereof he never 
perceiv'd the beginning, never knew that it was, or could be other- 
wise. By this, if the reverence he owes you be establish'd early, it will 
always be sacred to him, and it will be as hard for him to resist as 
the principles of his nature. 

101. Having thus very early set up your authority, and by the 
gentler applications of it sham'd him out of what leads towards an 
immoral habit, as soon as you have observ'd it in him, (for I would 
by no means have chiding us'd, much less blows, till obstinacy and 
incorrigibleness make it absolutely necessary) it will be fit to consider 
which way the natural make of his mind inclines him. Some men 
by the unalterable frame of their constitutions, are stout, others 
timorous, some confident, others modest, tractable, or obstinate, 
curious or careless, quicJ^ or slow. There are not more differences in 
men's faces, and the outward lineaments of their bodies, than there 
are in the makes and tempers of their minds; only there is this differ- 
ence, that the distinguishing characters of the face, and the linea- 
ments of the body, grow more plain and visible with time and age; 
but the peculiar physiognomy of the mind is most discernible in 
children, before art and cunning have taught them to hide their de- 



TEMPER 85 

formities, and conceal their ill inclinations under a dissembled 
outside. 

> 102. Begin therefore betimes nicely to observe your son's tem- 
per;' and that, when he is under least restraint, in his play, and as he 
thinks out of your sight. See what are his predominate passions and 
prevailing inclinations; whether he be fierce or mild, bold or bashful, 
compassionate c r cruel, open or reserv'd, &c. For as these are different 
in him, so are your methods to be different, and your authority must 
hence take measures to apply itself different ways to him. These 
native propensities, these prevalencies of constitution, are not to be 
cur'd by rules, or a direct contest, especially those of them that are the 
humbler and meaner sort, which proceed from fear, and lowness of 
spirit; though with art they may be much mended, and turn'd to 
good purposes. But this, be sure, after all is done, the byass will al- 
ways hang on that side that nature first plac'd it: And if you care- 
fully observe the characters of his mind, now in the first scenes of 
his life, you will ever after be able to judge which way his thoughts 
lean, and what he aims at even hereafter, when, as he grows up, the 
plot thickens, and he puts on several shapes to act it. 

103. I told you before, that children love liberty; and therefore 
they should be brought to do the things are fit for them, without 
feeling any restraint laid upon them. I now tell you, they love some- 
thing more; and that is dominion: And this is the first original of 
most vicious habits, that are ordinary and natural. This love of 
power and dominion shews itself very early, and that in these two 
things. 

104. i. We see children, as soon almost as they are born (I am 
sure long before they can speak) cry, grow peevish, sullen, and out of 
humour, for nothing but to have their wills. They would have their 
desires submitted to by others; they contend for a ready compliance 
from all about them, especially from those that stand near or beneath 
them in age or degree, as soon as they come to consider others with 
those distinctions. 

105. 2. Another thing wherein they shew their love of dominion, 
is, their desire to have things to be theirs: They would have pro- 
priety and possession, pleasing themselves with the power which that 
seems to give, and the right they thereby have, to dispose of them as 



86 JOHN LOCKE 

they please. He that has not observ'd these two humours working 
very betimes in children, has taken little notice of their actions: And 
he who thinks that these two roots of almost all the injustice and 
contention that so disturb human life, are not early to be weeded out, 
and contrary habits introduc'd, neglects the proper season to lay the 
foundations of a good and worthy man. To do this, I imagine these 
following things may somewhat conduce. 

106. i. That a child should never be suffer'd to have what he 
craves, much less what he cries for, I had said, or so much as speaks 
for: But that being apt to be misunderstood, and interpreted as if I 
meant a child should never speak to his parents for any thing, which 
will perhaps be thought to lay too great a curb on the minds of 
children, to the prejudice of that love and affection which should be 
between them and their parents; I shall explain my self a little more 
particularly. It is fit that they should have liberty to declare their 
wants to their parents, and that with all tenderness they should be 
hearken'd to, and supply'd, at least whilst they are very little. But 
'tis one thing to say, I am hungry, another to say, I would have roast- 
meat. Having declar'd their wants, their natural wants, the pain 
they feel from hunger, thirst, cold, or any other necessity of nature, 
'tis the duty of their parents and those about them to relieve them : 
But children must leave it to the choice and ordering of their parents, 
what they think properest for them, and how much; and must not 
be permitted to chuse for themselves, and say, I would have wine, or 
white-bread; the very naming of it should make them lose it. 

107. That which parents should take care of here, is to dis- 
tinguish between the wants of fancy, and those of nature; which 
Horace has well taught them to do in this verse: 

Quels humana sibi doleat natura negatis. 

Those are truly natural wants, which reason alone, without some 
other help, is not able to fence against, nor keep from disturbing us. 
The pains of sickness and hurts, hunger, thirst, and cold, want of 
sleep and rest or relaxation of the part weary 'd with labour, are what 
all men feel and the best dispos'd minds cannot but be sensible of 
their uneasiness; and therefore ought, by fit applications, to seek their 
removal, though not with impatience, or over great haste, upon the 



CRAVING 87 

first approaches of them, where delay does not threaten some irrep- 
arable harm. The pains that come from the necessities of nature, 
are monitors to us to beware of greater mischiefs, which they are 
the forerunners of; and therefore they must not be wholly neglected, 
nor strain'd too far. But yet the more children can be inur'd to hard- 
ships of this kind, by a wise care to make them stronger in body and 
mind, the better it will be for them. I need not here give any caution 
to keep within the bounds of doing them good, and to take care, that 
what children are made to suffer, should neither break their spirits, 
nor injure their health, parents being but too apt of themselves to 
incline more than they should to the softer side. 

But whatever compliance the necessities of nature may require, the 
wants of fancy children should never be gratify'd in, nor suffered to 
mention. The very speaking for any such thing should make them 
lose it. Clothes, when they need, they must have; but if they speal^ 
for this stuff or that colour, they should be sure to go without it. 
Not that I would have parents purposely cross the desires of their 
children in matters of indifferency; on the contrary, where their car- 
riage deserves it, and one is sure it will not corrupt or effeminate their 
minds, and make them fond of trifles, I think all things should be 
contriv'd, as much as could be, to their satisfaction, that they may find 
the ease and pleasure of doing well. The best for children is that 
they should not place any pleasure in such things at all, nor regulate 
their delight by their fancies, but be indifferent to all that nature has 
made so. This is what their parents and teachers should chiefly 
aim at; but till this be obtain'd, all that I oppose here, is the liberty 
of asking, which in these things of conceit ought to be restrain'd by a 
constant forfeiture annex'd to it. 

This may perhaps be thought a little too severe by the natural in- 
dulgence of tender parents; but yet it is no more than necessary: 
For since the method I propose is to banish the rod, this restraint of 
their tongues will be of great use to settle that awe we have else- 
where spoken of, and to keep up in them the respect and reverence 
due to their parents. Next, it will teach to keep in, and so master 
their inclinations. By this means they will be brought to learn the 
art of stifling their desires, as soon as they rise up in them, when they 
are easiest to be subdu'd. For giving vent, gives life and strength to 



00 JOHN LOCKE 

our appetites; and he that has the confidence to turn his wishes 
into demands, will be but a little way from thinking he ought to 
obtain them. This, I am sure, every one can more easily bear a denial 
from himself, than from any body else. They should therefore be 
accustom'd betimes to consult, and make use of their reason, before 
they give allowance to their inclinations. 'Tis a great step towards 
the mastery of our desires, to give this stop to them, and shut them 
up in silence. This habit got by children, of staying the forwardness 
of their fancies, and deliberating whether it be fit or no, before they 
spea\, will be of no small advantage to them in matters of greater 
consequence, in the future course of their lives. For that which I can- 
not too often inculcate, is, that whatever the matter be about which 
it is conversant, whether great or small, the main (I had almost said 
only) thing to be consider'd in every action of a child, is, what in- 
fluence it will have upon his mind; what habit it tends to, and is like 
to settle in him; how it will become him when he is bigger; and if it 
be encourag'd, whither it will lead him when he is grown up. 

My meaning therefore is not, that children should purposely be 
made uneasy. This would relish too much of inhumanity and ill- 
nature,and be apt to infect them with it. They should be brought to 
deny their appetites; and their minds, as well as bodies, be made 
vigorous, easy, and strong, by the custom of having their inclina- 
tions in subjection, and their bodies exercis'd with hardships: But 
all this, without giving them any mark or apprehension of ill-will 
towards them. The constant loss of what they crav'd or carv'd to 
themselves, should teach them modesty, submission, and a power 
to forbear: But the rewarding their modesty, and silence, by giving 
them what they lik'd, should also assure them of the love of those 
who rigorously exacted this obedience. The contenting themselves 
now in the want of what they wish'd for, is a virtue that another time 
should be rewarded with what is suited and acceptable to them; 
which should be bestow'd on them as if it were a natural consequence 
of their good behaviour, and not a bargain about it. But you will 
lose your labour, and what is more, their love and reverence too, if 
they can receive from others what you deny them. This is to be 
kept very staunch, and carefully to be watch'd. And here the servants 
come again my way. 



RECREATION 89 

108. If this be begun betimes, and they accustom themselves 
early to silence their desires, this useful habit will settle them; and as 
they come to grow up in age and discretion, they may be allow'd 
greater liberty, when reason comes to speak in 'em, and not passion : 
For whenever reason would speak, it should be hearken'd to. But 
as they should never be heard, when they speak for any particular 
thing they would have, unless it be first propos'd to them; so they 
should always be heard, and fairly and kindly answer'd, when they 
ask after any thing they would fyiow, and desire to be inform'd 
about. Curiosity should be as carefully cherish' d in children, as other 
appetites suppress'd. 

However strict an hand is to be kept upon all desires of fancy, yet 
there is one case wherein fancy must be permitted to speak, and be 
hearken'd to also. Recreation is as necessary as labour or food. But 
because there can be no recreation without delight, which depends 
not always on reason, but oftner fancy, it must be permitted children 
tot only to divert themselves, but to do it after their own fashion, 
provided it be innocently, and without prejudice to their health; and 
therefore in this case they should not be deny'd, if they proposed any 
particular kind of recreation. Tho' I think in a well-order'd educa- 
tion, they will seldom be brought to the necessity of asking any such 
liberty. Care should be taken, that what is of advantage to them, 
they should always do with delight; and before they are weary 'd with 
one, they should be timely diverted to some other useful employment. 
But if they are not yet brought to that degree of perfection, that one 
way of improvement can be made a recreation to them, they must 
be let loose to the childish play they fancy; which they should be 
wean'd from by being made to surfeit of it: But from things of use, 
that they are employ'd in, they should always be sent away with an 
appetite; at least be dismiss'd before they are tir'd, and grow quite sick 
of it, that so they may return to it again, as to a pleasure that diverts 
them. For you must never think them set right, till they can find de- 
light in the practice of laudable things; and the useful exercises of 
the body and mind, taking their turns, make their lives and im- 
provement pleasant in a continu'd train of recreations, wherein the 
weary'd part is constantly reliev'd and refresh'd. Whether this can 
be done in every temper, or whether tutors and parents will be at 



90 JOHN LOCKE 

the pains, and have the discretion and patience to bring them to this, 
I know not; but that it may be done in most children, if a right 
course be taken to raise in them the desire of credit, esteem, and 
reputation, I do not at all doubt. And when they have so much true 
life put into them, they may freely be talk'd with about what most 
delights them, and be directed or let loose to it; so that they may per- 
ceive that they are belov'd and cherish'd, and that those under whose 
tuition they are, are not enemies to their satisfaction. Such a man- 
agement will make them in love with the hand that directs them, 
and the virtue they are directed to. 

This farther advantage may be made by a free liberty permitted 
them in their recreations, that it will discover their natural tempers, 
shew their inclinations and aptitudes, and thereby direct wise parents 
in the choice both of the course of life and employment they shall de- 
sign them for, and of fit remedies, in the mean time, to be apply 'd 
to whatever bent of nature they may observe most likely to mislead 
any of their children. 

109. 2. Children who live together, often strive for mastery, 
whose wills shall carry it over the rest: whoever begins the contest, 
should be sure to be cross'd in it. But not only that, but they should 
be taught to have all the deference, complaisance, and civility one 
for the other imaginable. This, when they see it procures them re- 
spect, love and esteem, and that they lose no superiority by it, they 
will take more pleasure in, than in insolent domineering; for so 
plainly is the other. 

The accusations of children one against another, which usually 
are but the clamours of anger and revenge desiring aid, should not 
be favourably received, nor hearken'd to. It weakens and effeminates 
their minds to suffer them to complain; and if they endure some- 
times crossing or pain from others without being permitted to think 
it strange or intolerable, it will do them no harm to learn sufferance, 
and harden them early. But though you give no countenance to the 
complaints of the querulous, yet take care to curb the insolence and 
ill nature of the injurious. When you observe it yourself, reprove it 
before the injur'd party: but if the complaint be of something really 
worth your notice, and prevention another time, then reprove the 
offender by himself alone, out of sight of him that complain'd and 



JUSTICE 91 

make him go and ask pardon, and make reparation: which coming 
thus, as it were from himself, will be the more chearf ully performed, 
and more kindly receiv'd, the love strengthen'd between them, and a 
custom of civility grow familiar amongst your children. 

no. 3. As to the having and possessing of things, teach them to 
part with what they have, easily and freely to their friends, and let 
them find by experience that the most liberal has always the most 
plenty, with esteem and commendation to boot, and they will 
quickly learn to practise it. This I imagine, will make brothers and 
sisters kinder and civiller to one another, and consequently to others, 
than twenty rules about good manners, with which children are or- 
dinarily perplex'd and cumber'd. Covetousness, and the desire of 
having in our possession, and under our dominion, more than we 
have need of, being the root of all evil, should be early and carefully 
weeded out, and the contrary quality of a readiness to impart to 
others, implanted. This should be encourag'd by great commenda- 
tion and credit, and constantly taking care that he loses nothing by 
his liberality. Let all the instances he gives of such freeness be always 
repay'd, and with interest; and let him sensibly perceive, that the 
kindness he shews to others, is no ill husbandry for himself; but that 
it brings a return of kindness both from those that receive it, and 
those who look on. Make this a contest among children, who shall 
out-do one another this way : and by this means, by a constant prac- 
tice, children having made it easy to themselves to part with what 
they have, good nature may be settled in them into an habit, and they 
may take pleasure, and pique themselves in being J^ind, liberal and 
civil, to others. 

If liberality ought to be encourag'd certainly great care is to be 
taken that children transgress not the rules of Justice: and whenever 
they do, they should be set right, and if there be occasion for it, 
severely rebuk'd. 

Our first actions being guided more by self-love than reason or 
reflection, 'tis no wonder that in children they should be very apt 
to deviate from the just measures of right and wrong; which are in 
the mind the result of improv'd reason and serious meditation. This 
the more they are apt to mistake, the more careful guard ought to 
be kept over them; and every the least slip in this great social virtue 



92 JOHN LOCKE 

taken notice of, and rectify'd; and that in things of the least weight 
and moment, both to instruct their ignorance, and prevent ill habits; 
which from small beginnings in pins and cherry-stones, will, if let 
alone, grow up to higher frauds, and be in danger to end at last 
in downright harden'd dishonesty. The first tendency to any injus- 
tice that appears, must be suppress'd with a shew of wonder and 
abhorrence in the parents and governors. But because children 
cannot well comprehend what injustice is, till they understand 
property, and how particular persons come by it, the safest way to 
secure honesty, is to lay the foundations of it early in liberality, and 
an easiness to part with to others whatever they have or like them- 
selves. This may be taught them early, before they have language 
and understanding enough to form distinct notions of property, and 
to know what is theirs by a peculiar right exclusive of others. And 
since children seldom have any thing but by gift, and that for the 
most part from their parents, they may be at first taught not to take 
or keep any thing but what is given them by those, whom they take 
to have power over it. And as their capacities enlarge, other rules 
and cases of justice, and rights concerning Meum and Tuum, may 
be propos'd and inculcated. If any act of injustice in them appears 
to proceed, not from mistake, but a perverseness in their wills, when 
a gentle rebuke and shame will not reform this irregular and covet- 
ous inclination, rougher remedies must be apply'd: And 'tis but 
for the father and tutor to take and keep from them something that 
they value and think their own, or order somebody else to do it; and 
by such instances, make them sensible what little advantage they are 
like to make by possessing themselves unjustly of what is another's, 
whilst there are in the world stronger and more men than they. But 
if an ingenuous detestation of this shameful vice be but carefully 
and early instill'd into 'em, as I think it may, that is the true and 
genuine method to obviate this crime, and will be a better guard 
against dishonesty than any considerations drawn from interest; 
habits working more constantly, and with greater facility, than 
reason, which, when we have most need of it, is seldom fairly con- 
sulted, and more rarely obey'd. 

in. Crying is a fault that should not be tolerated in children; 
not only for the unpleasant and unbecoming noise it fills the house 



CRYING 93 

with, but for more considerable reasons, in reference to the children 
themselves; which is to be our aim in education. 

Their crying is of two sorts; either stubborn and domineering, 
or querulous and whining. 

I. Their crying is very often a striving for mastery, and an open 
declaration of their insolence or obstinacy; when they have not the 
power to obtain their desire, they will, by their clamour and sobbing, 
maintain their title and right to it. This is an avow'd continuing their 
claim, and a sort of remonstrance against the oppression and in- 
justice of those who deny them what they have a mind to. 

112. 2. Sometimes their crying is the effect of pain, or true 
sorrow, and a bemoaning themselves under it. 

These two, if carefully observ'd, may, by the mien, looks, actions, 
and particularly by the tone of their crying be easily distinguished; 
but neither of them must be suffer'd, much less encourag'd. 

i. The obstinate or stomach jul crying should by no means be per- 
mitted, because it is but another way of flattering their desires, and 
encouraging those passions which 'tis our main business to subdue: 
and if it be, as often it is, upon the receiving any correction, it quite 
defeats all the good effects of it; for any chastisement which leaves 
them in this declar'd opposition, only serves to make them worse. 
The restraints and punishments laid on children are all misapply'd 
and lost, as far as they do not prevail over their wills, teach them to 
submit their passions, and make their minds supple and pliant to 
what their parents' reason advises them now, and so prepare them 
to obey what their own reason shall advise hereafter. But if in 
any thing wherein they are cross'd, they may be suffer'd to go away 
crying, they confirm themselves in their desires, and cherish the ill 
humour, with a declaration of their right, and a resolution to satisfy 
their inclination the first opportunity. This therefore is another 
argument against the frequent use of blows: for, whenever you come 
to that extremity, 'tis not enough to whip or beat them, you must do 
it, till you find you have subdu'd their minds, till with submission 
and patience they yield to the correction; which you shall best dis- 
cover by their crying, and their ceasing from it upon your bidding. 
Without this, the beating of children is but a passionate tyranny over 
them; and it is mere cruelty, and not correction, to put their bodies 



94 JOHN LOCKE 

in pain, without doing their minds any good. As this gives us a 
reason why children should seldom be corrected, so it also prevents 
their being so. For if, whenever they are chastis'd, it were done thus 
without passion, soberly, and yet effectually too, laying on the blows 
and smart not furiously, and all at once, but slowly, with reasoning 
between, and with observation how it wrought, stopping when it 
had made them pliant, penitent and yielding; they would seldom 
need the like punishment again, being made careful to avoid the 
fault that deserv'd it. Besides, by this means, as the punishment 
would not be lost for being too little, and not effectual, so it would 
be kept from being too much, if we gave off as soon as we perceiv'd 
that it reach'd the mind, and that was better'd. For since the chiding 
or beating of children should be always the least that possibly may be, 
that which is laid on in the heat of anger, seldom observes that 
measure, but is commonly more than it should be, though it prove 
less than enough. 

113. 2. Many children are apt to cry, upon any little pain they 
suffer, and the least harm that befalls them puts them into complaints 
and bawling. This few children avoid: for it being the first and 
natural way to declare their sufferings or wants, before they can 
speak, the compassion that is thought due to that tender age foolishly 
encourages, and continues it in them long after they can speak. 'Tis 
the duty, I confess, of those about children, to compassionate them, 
whenever they suffer any hurt; but not to shew it in pitying them. 
Help and ease them the best you can, but by no means bemoan them. 
This softens their minds, and makes them yield to the little harms 
that happen to them ; whereby they sink deeper into that part which 
alone feels, and makes larger wounds there, than otherwise they 
would. They should be harden'd against all sufferings, especially of 
the body, and have no tenderness but what rises from an ingenuous 
shame, and a quick sense of reputation. The many inconveniences 
this life is expos'd to, require we should not be too sensible of every 
little hurt. What our minds yield not to, makes but a slight impres- 
sion, and does us but very little harm. 'Tis the suffering of our spirits 
that gives and continues the pain. This brawniness and insensibility 
of mind, is the best armour we can have against the common evils 
and accidents of life; and being a temper that is to be got by exercise 



CRYING 95 

and custom, more than any other way, the practice of it should be 
begun betimes; and happy is he that is taught it early. That effemi- 
nacy of spirit, which is to be prevented or cured, as nothing that I 
know so much increases in children as crying; so nothing, on the 
other side, so much checks and restrains, as their being hinder'd from 
that sort of complaining. In the little harms they suffer from knocks 
and falls, they should not be pitied for falling, but bid do so again; 
which besides that it stops their crying, is a better way to cure their 
heedlessness, and prevent their tumbling another time, than either 
chiding or bemoaning them. But, let the hurts they receive be what 
they will, stop their crying, and that will give them more quiet and 
ease at present, and harden them for the future. 

114. The former sort of crying requires severity to silence it; and 
where a look, or a positive command will not do it, blows must: for 
it proceeding from pride, obstinacy, and stomach, the will, where the 
fault lies, must be bent, and made to comply, by a rigour sufficient to 
master it. But this latter being ordinarily from softness of mind, 
a quite contrary cause, ought to be treated with a gentler hand. Per- 
suasion, or diverting the thoughts another way, or laughing at their 
whining, may perhaps be at first the proper method: but for this, 
the circumstances of the thing, and the particular temper of the 
child, must be considered. No certain unvariable rules can be given 
about it; but it must be left to the prudence of the parents or tutor. 
But this, I think, I may say in general, that there should be a con- 
stant discountenancing of this sort of crying also; and that the father, 
by his authority, should always stop it, mixing a greater degree of 
roughness in his looks or words, proportionately as the child is of 
a greater age, or a sturdier temper: But always let it be enough to 
silence their whimpering, and put an end to the disorder. 

115. Cowardice and courage are so nearly related to the fore- 
mention'd tempers, that it may not be amiss here to take notice of 
them. Fear is a passion that, if rightly governed, has its use. And 
though self-love seldom fails to keep it watchful and high enough 
in us, yet there may be an excess on the daring side; fool-hardiness 
and insensibility of danger being as little reasonable, as trembling 
and shrinking at the approach of every little evil. Fear was given 
us as a monitor to quicken our industry, and keep us upon our 



96 JOHN LOCKE 

guard against the approaches of evil; and therefore to have no ap- 
prehension of mischief at hand, not to make a just estimate of the 
danger, but heedlessly to run into it, be the hazard what it will, with- 
out considering of what use or consequence it may be, is not the reso- 
lution of a rational creature, but brutish fury. Those who have 
children of this temper, have nothing to do, but a little to awaken 
their reason, which self-preservation will quickly dispose them to 
hearken to, unless (which is usually the case) some other passion 
hurries them on head-long, without sense and without consideration. 
A dislike of evil is so natural to mankind, that nobody, I think, can 
be without fear of it: fear being nothing but an uneasiness under 
the apprehension of that coming upon us, which we dislike. And 
therefore, whenever any one runs into danger, we may say, 'tis 
under the conduct of ignorance, or the command of some more 
imperious passion, nobody being so much an enemy to himself, as 
to come within the reach of evil, out of free choice, and court danger 
for danger's sake. If it be therefore pride, vain-glory, or rage, that 
silences a child's fear, or makes him not hearken to its advice, those 
are by fit means to be abated, that a little consideration may allay 
his heat, and make him bethink himself, whether this attempt be 
worth the venture. But this being a fault that children are not so 
often guilty of, I shall not be more particular in its cure. Weakness 
of spirit is the more common defect, and therefore will require the 
greater care. 

Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues; and with- 
out courage a man will scarce keep steady to his duty, and fill up the 
character of a truly worthy man. 

Courage, that makes us bear up against dangers that we fear and 
evils that we feel, is of great use in an estate, as ours is in this life, 
expos'd to assaults on all hands : and therefore it is very advisable to 
get children into this armour as early as we can. Natural temper, 
I confess, does here a great deal: but even where that is defective, 
and the heart is in itself weak and timorous, it may, by a right man- 
agement, be brought to a better resolution. What is to be done to 
prevent breaking children's spirits by frightful apprehensions 
instill'd into them when young, or bemoaning themselves under 
every little suffering, I have already taken notice; how to harden 



COURAGE 97 

their tempers, and raise their courage, if we find them too much 
subject to fear, is farther to be consider'd. 

True fortitude, I take to be the quiet possession of a man's self, 
and an undisturb'd doing his duty, whatever evil besets, or danger 
lies in his way. This there are so few men attain to, that we are not 
to expect it from children. But yet something may be done: and a 
wise conduct by insensible degrees may carry them farther than 
one expects. 

The neglect of this great care of them, whilst they are young, is 
the reason, perhaps, why there are so few that have this virtue in 
its full latitude when they are men. I should not say this in a nation 
so naturally brave, as ours is, did I think that true fortitude required 
nothing but courage in the field, and a contempt of life in the face 
of an enemy. This, I confess, is not the least part of it, nor can be 
denied the laurels and honours always justly due to the valour of 
those who venture their lives for their country. But yet this is not 
all. Dangers attack us in other places besides the field of battle; and 
though death be the king of terrors, yet pain, disgrace and poverty, 
have frightful looks, able to discompose most men whom they seem 
ready to seize on: and there are those who contemn some of these, 
and yet are heartily frighted with the other. True fortitude is pre- 
par'd for dangers of all kinds, and unmoved, whatsoever evil it 
be that threatens. I do not mean unmoved with any fear at all. 
Where danger shews it self, apprehension cannot, without stupidity, 
be wanting; where danger is, sense of danger should be; and so much 
fear as should keep us awake, and excite our attention, industry, and 
vigour; but not disturb the calm use of our reason, nor hinder the 
execution of what that dictates. 

The first step to get this noble and manly steadiness, is, what I 
have above mentioned, carefully to keep children from frights of 
all kinds, when they are young. Let not any fearful apprehensions be 
talk'd into them, nor terrible objects surprise them. This often so 
shatters and discomposes the spirits, that they never recover it again; 
but during their whole life, upon the first suggestion or appearance 
of any terrifying idea, are scatter'd and confounded; the body is 
enervated, and the mind disturb'd, and the man scarce himself, or 
capable of any composed or rational action. Whether this be from 



pO JOHN LOCKE 

an habitual motion of the animal spirits, introduced by the first strong 
impression, or from the alteration of the constitution by some more 
unaccountable way, this is certain, that so it is. Instances of such who 
in a weak timorous mind, have borne, all their whole lives through, 
the effects of a fright when they were young, are every where to be 
seen, and therefore as much as may be to be prevented. 

The next thing is by gentle degrees to accustom children to those 
things they are too much afraid of. But here great caution is to be 
used, that you do not make too much haste, nor attempt this cure 
too early, for fear lest you increase the mischief instead of remedying 
it. Little ones in arms may be easily kept out of the way of terrifying 
objects, and till they can talk and understand what is said to them, 
are scarce capable of that reasoning and discourse which should be 
used to let them know there is no harm in those frightful objects, 
which we would make them familiar with, and do, to that purpose 
by gentle degrees bring nearer and nearer to them. And therefore 
'tis seldom there is need of any application to them of this kind, 
till after they can run about and talk. But yet, if it should happen 
that infants should have taken offence at any thing which cannot 
be easily kept out of their way, and that they shew marks of terror 
as often as it comes in sight; all the allays of fright, by diverting their 
thoughts, or mixing pleasant and agreeable appearances with it, must 
be used, till it be grown familiar and inoffensive to them. 

I think we may observe, that, when children are first born, all 
objects of sight that do not hurt the eyes, are indifferent to them; and 
they are no more afraid of a blackamoor or a lion, than of their 
nurse or a cat. What is it then, that afterwards, in certain mixtures 
of shape and colour, comes to affright them? Nothing but the 
apprehensions of harm that accompanies those things. Did a child 
suck every day a new nurse, I make account it would be no more 
affrighted with the change of faces at six months old, than at sixty. 
The reason then why it will not come to a stranger, is, because having 
been accustomed to receive its food and kind usage only from one 
or two that are about it, the child apprehends, by coming into the 
arms of a stranger, the being taken from what delights and feeds 
it and every moment supplies its wants, which it often feels, and 
therefore fears when the nurse is away. 






TIMOROUSNESS 99 

The only thing we naturally are afraid o is pain, or loss of pleas- 
ure. And because these are not annexed to any shape, colour, or size 
of visible objects, we are frighted with none of them, till either we 
have felt pain from them, or have notions put into us that they will 
do us harm. The pleasant brightness and lustre of flame and fire so 
delights children, that at first they always desire to be handling of 
it: but when constant experience has convinced them, by the exquisite 
pain it has put them to, how cruel and unmerciful it is, they are afraid 
to touch it, and carefully avoid it. This being the ground of fear, 
'tis not hard to find whence it arises, and how it is to be cured in all 
mistaken objects of terror. And when the mind is confirm'd against 
them, and has got a mastery over it self and its usual fears in lighter 
occasions, it is in good preparation to meet more real dangers. Your 
child shrieks, and runs away at the sight of a frog; let another catch 
it, and lay it down at a good distance from him: at first accustom 
him to look upon it; when he can do that, then to come nearer to it, 
and see it leap without emotion; then to touch it lightly, when it is 
held fast in another's hand; and so on, till he can come to handle it 
as confidently as a butterfly or a sparrow. By the same way any other 
vain terrors may be remov'd; if care be taken, that you go not too 
fast, and push not the child on to a new degree of assurance, till he 
be thoroughly confirm'd in the former. And thus the young soldier 
is to be train'd on to the warfare of life; wherein care is to be taken, 
that more things be not represented as dangerous than really are so; 
and then, that whatever you observe him to be more frighted at than 
he should, you be sure to tole him on to by insensible degrees, till 
he at last, quitting his fears, masters the difficulty, and comes off 
with applause. Successes of this kind, often repeated, will make him 
find, that evils are not always so certain or so great as our fears 
represent them; and that the way to avoid them, is not to run away, 
or be discompos'd, dejected, and deterr'd by fear, where either our 
credit or duty requires us to go on. 

But since the great foundation of fear in children is pain, the way 
to harden and fortify children against fear and danger is to accustom 
them to suffer pain. This 'tis possible will be thought, by kind 
parents, a very unnatural thing towards their children; and by most, 
unreasonable, to endeavour to reconcile any one to the sense of pain, 



100 JOHN LOCKE 

by bringing it upon him. 'Twill be said: 'It may perhaps give the 
child an aversion for him that makes him suffer; but can never rec- 
ommend to him suffering itself. This is a strange method. You will 
not have children whipp'd and punish'd for their faults, but you 
would have them tormented for doing well, or for tormenting sake.' 
I doubt not but such objections as these will be made, and I shall be 
thought inconsistent with my self, or fantastical, in proposing it. I 
confess, it is a thing to be managed with great discretion, and there- 
fore it falls not out amiss, that it will not be receiv'd or relish'd, but 
by those who consider well, and look into the reason of things. I 
would not have children much beaten for their faults, because I 
would not have them think bodily pain the greatest punishment : and 
I would have them, when they do well, be sometimes put in pain, for 
the same reason, that they might be accustom'd to bear it, without 
looking on it as the greatest evil. How much education may recon- 
cile young people to pain and sufference, the examples of Sparta do 
sufficiently shew: and they who have once brought themselves not 
to think bodily pain the greatest of evils, or that which they ought 
to stand most in fear of, have made no small advance towards virtue. 
But I am not so foolish to propose the Lacedemonian discipline in 
our age or constitution. But yet I do say, that inuring children gently 
to suffer some degrees of pain without shrinking, is a way to gain 
firmness to their minds, and lay a foundation for courage and reso- 
lution in the future part of their lives. 

Not to bemoan them, or permit them to bemoan themselves, on 
every little pain they suffer, is the first step to be made. But of this I 
have spoken elsewhere. 

The next thing is, sometimes designedly to put them in pain: but 
care must be taken that this be done when the child is in good 
humour, and satisfied of the good-will and kindness of him that 
hurts him, at the time that he does it. There must no marks of anger 
or displeasure on the one side, nor compassion or repenting on the 
other, go along with it : and it must be sure to be no more than the 
child can bear without repining or taking it amiss, or for a punish- 
ment. Managed by these degrees, and with such circumstances, I 
have seen a child run away laughing with good smart blows of a 
wand on his back, who would have cried for an unkind word, and 



HARDINESS IOI 

have been very sensible of the chastisement of a cold look, from the 
same person. Satisfy a child by a constant course of your care and 
kindness, that you perfectly love him, and he may by degrees be 
accustom'd to bear very painful and rough usage from you, without 
flinching or complaining: and this we see children do every day in 
play one with another. The softer you find your child is, the more 
you are to seek occasions, at fit times, thus to harden him. The great 
art in this is, to begin with what is but very little painful, and to 
proceed by insensible degrees, when you are playing, and in good 
humour with him, and speaking well of him: and when you have 
once got him to think himself made amends for his suffering by the 
praise is given him for his courage; when he can take a pride in 
giving such marks of his manliness, and can prefer the reputation of 
being brave and stout, to the avoiding a little pain, or the shrinking 
under it; you need not despair in time and by the assistance of his 
growing reason, to master his timorousness, and mend the weakness 
of his constitution. As he grows bigger, he is to be set upon bolder 
attempts than his natural temper carries him to; and whenever he is 
observ'd to flinch from what one has reason to think he would come 
off well in, if he had but courage to undertake, that he should be 
assisted in at first, and by degrees sham'd to, till at last practice has 
given more assurance, and with it a mastery; which must be re- 
warded with great praise, and the good opinion of others, for his 
performance. When by these steps he has got resolution enough not 
to be deterr'd from what he ought to do, by the apprehension of 
danger; when fear does not, in sudden or hazardous occurrences, 
discompose his mind, set his body a-trembling, and make him unfit 
for action, or run away from it, he has then the courage of a rational 
creature : and such an hardiness we should endeavour by custom and 
use to bring children to, as proper occasions come in our way. 

116. One thing I have frequently observ'd in children, that when 
they have got possession of any poor creature, they are apt to use it 
ill: they often torment, and treat very roughly, young birds, butter- 
flies, and such other poor animals which fall into their hands, and 
that with a seeming kind of pleasure. This I think should be watched 
in them, and if they incline to any such cruelty, they should be taught 
the contrary usage. For the custom of tormenting and killing of 



IO2 JOHN LOCKE 

beasts, will, by degrees, harden their minds even towards men; and 
they who delight in the suffering and destruction of inferior crea- 
tures, will not be apt to be very compassionate or benign to those 
of their own kind. Our practice takes notice of this in the exclusion 
of butchers from juries of life and death. Children should from the 
beginning be bred up in an abhorrence of filling or tormenting any 
living creature; and be taught not to spoil or destroy any thing, 
unless it be for the preservation or advantage of some other that is 
nobler. And truly, if the preservation of all mankind, as much as in 
him lies, were every one's persuasion, as indeed it is every one's duty, 
and the true principle to regulate our religion, politicks and morality 
by, the world would be much quieter, and better natur'd than it is. 
But to return to our present business; I cannot but commend both the 
kindness and prudence of a mother I knew, who was wont always 
to indulge her daughters, when any of them desired dogs, squirrels, 
birds, or any such things as young girls use to be delighted with: 
but then, when they had them, they must be sure to keep them well, 
and look diligently after them, that they wanted nothing, or were 
not ill used. For if they were negligent in their care of them, it was 
counted a great fault, which often forfeited their possession, or at 
least they fail'd not to be rebuked for it; whereby they were early 
taught diligence and good nature. And indeed, I think people should 
be accustomed, from their cradles, to be tender to all sensible crea- 
tures, and to spoil or waste nothing at all. 

This delight they take in doing of mischief, whereby I mean spoil- 
ing of any thing to no purpose, but more especially the pleasure they 
take to put any thing in pain, that is capable of it; I cannot persuade 
my self to be any other than a foreign and introduced disposition, 
an habit borrowed from custom and conversation. People teach chil- 
dren to strike, and laugh when they hurt or see harm come to 
others: and they have the examples of most about them, to confirm 
them in it. All the entertainment and talk of history is nothing 
almost but fighting and killing: and the honour and renown that 
is bestowed on conquerors (who for the most part are but the great 
butchers of mankind) farther mislead growing youth, who by this 
means come to think slaughter the laudable business of mankind, 
and the most heroick of virtues. By these steps unnatural cruelty is 



CRUELTY IO3 

planted in us; and what humanity abhors, custom reconciles and 
recommends to us, by laying it in the way to honour. Thus, by fash- 
ion and opinion, that comes to be a pleasure, which in itself neither is, 
nor can be any. This ought carefully to be watched, and early reme- 
died; so as to settle and cherish the contrary and more natural temper 
of benignity and compassion in the room of it; but still by the same 
gentle methods which are to be applied to the other two faults before 
mention'd. It may not perhaps be unreasonable here to add this 
farther caution, viz., That the mischiefs or harms that come by play, 
inadvertency, or ignorance, and were not known to be harms, or 
design'd for mischief's sake, though they may perhaps be sometimes 
of considerable damage, yet are not at all, or but very gently, to be 
taken notice of. For this, I think, I cannot too often inculcate, that 
whatever miscarriage a child is guilty of, and whatever be the conse- 
quence of it, the thing to be regarded in taking notice of it, is only 
what root it springs from, and what habit it is like to establish: and 
to that the correction ought to be directed, and the child not to suf- 
fer any punishment for any harm which may have come by his play 
or inadvertency. The faults to be amended lie in the mind; and if 
they are such as either age will cure, or no ill habits will follow 
from, the present action, whatever displeasing circumstances it may 
have, is to be passed by without any animadversion. 

117. Another way to instill sentiments of humanity, and to keep 
them lively in young folks, will be, to accustom them to civility in 
their language and deportment towards their inferiors and the 
meaner sort of people, particularly servants. It is not unusual to 
observe the children in gentlemen's families treat the servants of 
the house with domineering words, names of contempt, and an 
imperious carriage; as if they were of another race and species be- 
neath them. Whether ill example, the advantage of fortune, or their 
natural vanity, inspire this haughtiness, it should be prevented, 
or weeded out; and a gentle, courteous, affable carriage towards the 
lower ranks of men, placed in the room of it. No part of their 
superiority will be hereby lost; but the distinction increased, and 
their authority strengthen'd; when love in inferiors is join'd to 
outward respect, and an esteem of the person has a share in their 
submission: and domesticks will pay a more ready and chearful 



104 JOHN LOCKE 

service, when they find themselves not spurn'd because fortune has 
laid them below the level of others at their master's feet. Children 
should not be sufler'd to lose the consideration of human nature in 
the shufflings of outward conditions. The more they have, the better 
humor'd they should be taught to be, and the more compassionate 
and gentle to those of their brethren who are placed lower, and have 
scantier portions. If they are sufler'd from their cradles to treat men 
ill and rudely, because, by their father's title, they think they have a 
little power over them, at best it is ill-bred; and if care be not taken, 
will by degrees nurse up their natural pride into an habitual contempt 
of those beneath them. And where will that probably end but in 
oppression and cruelty? 

1 1 8. Curiosity in children (which I had occasion just to men- 
tion 108) is but an appetite after knowledge; and therefore ought 
to be encouraged in them, not only as a good sign, but as the great 
instrument nature has provided to remove that ignorance they were 
born with; and which, without this busy inquisitiveness, will make 
them dull and useless creatures. The ways to encourage it, and keep 
it active and busy, are, I suppose, these following: 

i. Not to check or discountenance any enquiries he shall make, 
nor suffer them to be laugh'd at; but to answer all his questions, and 
explain the matter he desires to know, so as to make them as much 
intelligible to him as suits the capacity of his age and knowledge. 
But confound not his understanding with explications or notions that 
are above it; or with the variety or number of things that are not 
to his present purpose. Mark what 'tis his mind aims at in the 
question, and not what words he expresses it in : and when you have 
informed and satisfied him in that, you shall see how his thoughts 
will enlarge themselves, and how by fit answers he may be led on 
farther than perhaps you could imagine. For knowledge is grateful 
to the understanding, as light to the eyes: children are pleased and 
delighted with it exceedingly, especially if they see that their en- 
quiries are regarded, and that their desire of knowing is encouraged 
and commended. And I doubt not but one great reason why many 
children abandon themselves wholly to silly sports, and trifle away 
all their time insipidly, is, because they have found their curiosity 
baulk'd, and their enquiries neglected. But had they been treated 



CURIOSITY IO5 

with more kindness and respect, and their questions answered, as 
they should, to their satisfaction; I doubt not but they would have 
taken more pleasure in learning, and improving their knowledge, 
wherein there would be still newness and variety, which is what 
they are delighted with, than in returning over and over to the 
same play and play-things. 

119. 2. To this serious answering their questions, and inform- 
ing their understandings, in what they desire, as if it were a matter 
that needed it, should be added some peculiar ways of commenda- 
tion. Let others whom they esteem, be told before their faces of the 
knowledge they have in such and such things; and since we are all, 
even from our cradles, vain and proud creatures, let their vanity be 
flatter'd with things that will do them good; and let their pride set 
them on work on something which may turn to their advantage. 
Upon this ground you shall find, that there cannot be a greater spur 
to the attaining what you would have the eldest learn, and know 
himself, than to set him upon teaching it his younger brothers and 
sisters. 

120. 3. As children's enquiries are not to be slighted; so also 
great care is to be taken, that they never receive deceitful and elud- 
ing answers. They easily perceive when they are slighted or deceived; 
and quickly learn the trick of neglect, dissimulation and falsehood, 
which they observe others to make use of. We are not to intrench 
upon truth in any conversation, but least of all with children; since 
if we play false with them, we not only deceive their expectation, and 
hinder their knowledge, but corrupt their innocence, and teach them 
the worst of vices. They are travellers newly arrived in a strange 
country, of which they know nothing; we should therefore make 
conscience not to mislead them. And though their questions seem 
sometimes not very material, yet they should be seriously answer'd; 
for however they may appear to us (to whom they are long since 
known) enquiries not worth the making; they are of moment to 
those who are wholly ignorant. Children are strangers to all we 
are acquainted with; and all the things they meet with, are at first 
unknown to them, as they once were to us: and happy are they who 
meet with civil people, that will comply with their ignorance, and 
help them to get out of it. 



106 JOHN LOCKE 

If you or I now should be set down in Japan, with all our prudence 
and knowledge about us, a conceit whereof makes us, perhaps, so 
apt to slight the thoughts and enquiries of children; should we, I 
say, be set down in Japan, we should, no doubt (if we would inform 
our selves of what is there to be known) ask a thousand questions, 
which, to a supercilious or inconsiderate Japaner, would seem very 
idle and impertinent; though to us they would be very material and 
of importance to be resolved; and we should be glad to find a man so 
complaisant and courteous, as to satisfy our demands, and instruct 
our ignorance. 

When any new thing comes in their way, children usually 
ask the common question of a stranger: What is it? Whereby 
they ordinarily mean nothing but the name; and therefore to tell 
them how it is call'd, is usually the proper answer to that demand. 
And the next question usually is, What is it for? And to this it 
should be answered truly and directly: The use of the thing should 
be told, and the way explained, how it serves to such a purpose, 
as far as their capacities can comprehend it. And so of any other 
circumstances they shall ask about it; not turning them going, till 
you have given them all the satisfaction they are capable of; and so 
leading them by your answers into farther questions. And perhaps 
to a grown man, such conversation will not be altogether so idle and 
insignificant as we are apt to imagine. The native and untaught 
suggestions of inquisitive children do often offer things, that may set 
a considering man's thoughts on work. And I think there is fre- 
quently more to be learn'd from the unexpected questions of a child, 
than the discourses of men, who talk in a road, according to the 
notions they have borrowed, and the prejudices of their education. 

121. 4. Perhaps it may not sometimes be amiss to excite their 
curiosity by bringing strange and new things in their way, on pur- 
pose to engage their enquiry, and give them occasion to inform 
themselves about them: and if by chance their curiosity leads them 
to ask what they should not know, it is a great deal better to tell 
them plainly, that it is a thing that belongs not to them to know, 
than to pop them off with a falsehood of a frivolous answer. 

122. Pertness, that appears sometimes so early, proceeds from 
a principle that seldom accompanies a strong constitution of body, 



SAUNTERING 1 07 

or ripens into a strong judgment of mind. If it were desirable to 
have a child a more brisk talker, I believe there might be ways 
found to make him so : But I suppose a wise father had rather that 
his son should be able and useful, when a man, than pretty company, 
and a diversion to others, whilst a child: though if that too were 
to be consider'd, I think I may say, there is not so much pleasure to 
have a child prattle agreeably, as to reason well. Encourage therefore 
his inquisitiveness all you can, by satisfying his demands, and inform- 
ing his judgment, as far as it is capable. When his reasons are any 
way tolerable, let him find the credit and commendation of it: 
and when they are quite out of the way, let him, without being 
laugh'd at for his mistake be gently put into the right; and if he shew 
a forwardness to be reasoning about things that come in his way, 
take care, as much as you can, that no body check this inclination 
in him, or mislead it by captious or fallacious ways of talking with 
him. For when all is done, this, as the highest and most important 
faculty of our minds, deserves the greatest care and attention in 
cultivating it: the right improvement, and exercise of our reason be- 
ing the highest perfection that a man can attain to in this life. 

123. Contrary to this busy inquisitive temper, there is some- 
times observable in children, a listless carelessness, a want of regard 
to any thing, and a sort of trifling even at their business. This 
sauntring humour I look on as one of the worst qualities can appear 
in a child, as well as one of the hardest to be cured, where it is 
natural. But it being liable to be mistaken in some cases, care must 
be taken to make a right judgment concerning that trifling at their 
books or business, which may sometimes be complained of in a 
child. Upon the first suspicion a father has, that his son is of a 
sauntring temper, he must carefully observe him, whether he be 
listless and indifferent in all in his actions, or whether in some things 
alone he be slow and sluggish, but in others vigorous and eager. 
For tho' we find that he does loiter at his book, and let a good deal 
-of the time he spends in his chamber or study, run idly away; 
he must not presently conclude, that this is from a sauntring humour 
in his temper. It may be childishness, and a preferring something to 
his study, which his thoughts run on: and he dislikes his book, as is 
natural, because it is forced upon him as a task. To know this per- 



108 JOHN LOCKE 

fectly, you must watch him at play, when he is out of his place and 
time of study, following his own inclination; and see there whether 
he be stirring and active; whether he designs any thing, and with 
labour and eagerness pursues it, till he has accomplished what he 
aimed at, or whether he lazily and listlessly dreams away his time. 
If this sloth be only when he is about his book, I think it may be 
easily cured. If it be in his temper, it will require a little more pains 
and attention to remedy it. 

124. If you are satisfied by his earnestness at play, or any thing 
else he sets his mind on, in the intervals between his hours of busi- 
ness, that he is not of himself inclined to laziness, but that only 
want of relish of his book makes him negligent and sluggish in his 
application to it; the first step is to try by talking to him kindly of 
the folly and inconvenience of it, whereby he loses a good part of his 
time, which he might have for his diversion: but be sure to talk 
calmly and kindly, and not much at first, but only these plain reasons 
in short. If this prevails, you have gain'd the point in the most 
desirable way, which is that of reason and kindness. If this softer 
application prevails not, try to shame him out of it, by laughing at 
him for it, asking every day, when he comes to table, if there be no 
strangers there, how long he was that day about his business: And 
if he has not done it in the time he might be well supposed to have 
dispatched it, expose and turn him into ridicule for it; but mix 
no chiding, only put on a pretty cold brow towards him, and keep 
it till he reform; and let his mother, tutor, and all about him do so 
too. If this work not the effect you desire, then tell him he shall be 
no longer troubled with a tutor to take care of his education, you 
will not be at the charge to have him spend his time idly with him; 
but since he prefers this or that [whatever play he delights in] to 
his book, that only he shall do; and so in earnest set him to work on 
his beloved play, and keep him steadily, and in earnest, to it morn- 
ing and afternoon, till he be fully surfeited, and would, at any rate, 
change it for some hours at his book again. But when you thus 
set him his task of play, you must be sure to look after him your self, 
or set somebody else to do it, that may constantly see him employed 
in it, and that he be not permitted to be idle at that too. I say, your 
self look after him; for it is worth a father's while, whatever business 



SAUNTERING 109 

he has, to bestow two or three days upon his son, to cure so great a 
mischief as his sauntring at his business. 

125. This is what I propose, if it be idleness, not from his general 
temper, but a peculiar or acquir'd aversion to learning, which you 
must be careful to examine and distinguish. But though you have 
your eyes upon him, to watch what he does with the time which he 
has at his own disposal, yet you must not let him perceive that you or 
any body else do so; for that may hinder him from following his 
own inclination, which he being full of, and not daring, for fear of 
you, to prosecute what his head and heart are set upon, he may neg- 
lect all other things, which then he relishes not, and so may seem to 
be idle and listless, when in truth it is nothing but being intent on 
that, which the fear of your eye or knowledge keeps him from execut- 
ing. To be clear in this point, the observation must be made when 
you are out of the way, and he not so much as under the restraint of 
a suspicion that any body has an eye upon him. In those seasons of 
perfect freedom, let some body you can trust mark how he spends his 
time, whether he unactively loiters it away, when without any check 
he is left to his own inclination. Thus, by his employing of such 
times of liberty, you will easily discern, whether it be listlessness 
in his temper, or aversion to his book, that makes him saunter away 
his time of study. 

126. If some defect in his constitution has cast a damp on his 
mind, and he be naturally listless and dreaming, this unpromising 
disposition is none of the easiest to be dealt with, because, generally 
carrying with it an unconcernedness for the future, it wants the two 
great springs of action, foresight and desire; which how to plant and 
increase, where nature has given a cold and contrary temper, will be 
the question. As soon as you are satisfied that this is the case, you 
must carefully enquire whether there be nothing he delights in; 
Inform your self what it is he is most pleased with; and if you can 
find any particular tendency his mind hath, increase it all you can, 
and make use of that to set him on work, and to excite his industry. 
ilf he loves praise, or play, or fine clothes, &c. or, on the other side, 
dreads pain, disgrace, or your displeasure, &c., whatever it be that 
he loves most, except it be sloth (for that will never set him on 
work) let that be made use of to quicken him, and make him bestir 



110 JOHN LOCKE 

himself. For in this listless temper, you are not to fear an excess 
of appetite (as in all other cases) by cherishing it. 'Tis that which 
you want, and therefore must labour to raise and increase; for 
where there is no desire, there will be no industry. 

127. If you have not hold enough upon him this way, to stir up 
vigour and activity in him, you must employ him in some constant 
bodily labour, whereby he may get an habit of doing something. The 
keeping him hard to some study were the better way to get him an 
habit of exercising and applying his mind. But because this is an in- 
visible attention, and no body can tell when he is or is not idle at it, 
you must find bodily employments for him, which he must be con- 
stantly busied in, and kept to; and if they have some little hardship 
and shame in them, it may not be the worse, that they may the sooner 
weary him, and make him desire to return to his book. But be sure, 
when you exchange his book for his other labour, set him such a 
task, to be done in such a time as may allow him no opportunity to be 
idle. Only after you have by this way brought him to be attentive 
and industrious at his book, you may, upon his dispatching his study 
within the time set him, give him as a reward some respite from his 
other labour; which you may diminish as you find him grow more 
and more steady in his application, and at last wholly take of! when 
his sauntring at his book is cured. 

128. We formerly observed, that variety and freedom was that 
that delighted children, and recommended their plays to them; and 
that therefore their book or any thing we would have them learn, 
should not be enjoined them as business. This their parents, tutors, 
and teachers are apt to forget; and their impatience to have them 
busied in what is fit for them to do, suffers them not to deceive them 
into it: but by the repeated injunctions they meet with, children 
quickly distinguish between what is required of them, and what not. 
When this mistake has once made his book uneasy to him, the cure 
is to be applied at the other end. And since it will be then too late 
to endeavour to make it a play to him, you must take the contrary 
course: observe what play he is most delighted with; enjoin that, 
and make him play so many hours every day, not as a punishment 
for playing, but as if it were the business required of him. This, if I 
mistake not, will in a few days make him so weary of his most be- 



PLAY-GAMES III 

loved sport, that he will prefer his book, or any thing to it, especially 
if it may redeem him from any part of the task of play is set him, 
and he may be suffered to employ some part of the time destined to 
his tas^ of play in his book, or such other exercise as is really useful 
to him. This I at least think a better cure than that forbidding, 
(which usually increases the desire) or any other punishment should 
be made use of to remedy it: for when you have once glutted his 
appetite (which may safely be done in all things but eating and 
drinking) and made him surfeit of what you would have him 
avoid, you have put into him a principle of aversion, and you need 
not so much fear afterwards his longing for the same thing again. 

129. This I think is sufficiently evident, that children generally 
hate to be idle. All the care then is, that their busy humour should 
be constantly employ'd in something of use to them; which, if you 
will attain, you must make what you would have them do a recrea- 
tion to them, and not a business. The way to do this, so that they 
may not perceive you have any hand in it, is this proposed here; viz. 
To make them weary of that which you would not have them do, 
by enjoining and making them under some pretence or other do it, 
till they are surfeited. For example: Does your son play at top and 
scourge too much? Enjoin him to play so many hours every day, 
and look that he do it; and you shall see he will quickly be sick of it, 
and willing to leave it. By this means making the recreations you 
dislike a business to him, he will of himself with delight betake him- 
self to those things you would hava him do, especially if they be 
proposed as rewards for having performed his tasJ^ in that play which 
is commanded him. For if he be ordered every day to whip his top 
so long as to make him sufficiently weary, do you not think he will 
apply himself with eagerness to his book, and wish for it, if you 
promise it him as a reward of having whipped his top lustily, quite 
out all the time that is set him? Children, in the things they do, if 
they comport with their age, find little difference so they may be 
doing: the esteem they have for one thing above another they bor- 
row from others; so that what those about them make to be a reward 
:o them, will really be so. By this art it is in their governor's choice, 
vhether scotchhoppers shall reward their dancing, or dancing their 
cotchhoppers; whether peg-top, or reading; playing at trap, or study- 



112 JOHN LOCKE 

ing the globes, shall be more acceptable and pleasing to them; all 
that they desire being to be busy, and busy, as they imagine, in things 
of their own choice, and which they receive as favours from their 
parents or others for whom they have respect and with whom they 
would be in credit. A set of children thus ordered and kept from the 
ill example of others, would all of them, I suppose, with as much 
earnestness and delight, learn to read, write, and what else one would 
have them, as others do their ordinary plays: and the eldest being 
thus entered, and this made the fashion of the place, it would be as 
impossible to hinder them from learning the one, as it is ordinarily 
to keep them from the other. 

130. Play-things, I think, children should have, and of divers 
sorts; but still to be in the custody of their tutors or some body else, 
whereof the child should have in his power but one at once, and 
should not be suffered to have another but when he restored that. 
This teaches them betimes to be careful of not losing or spoiling the 
things they have; whereas plenty and variety in their own keeping, 
makes them wanton and careless, and teaches them from the begin- 
ning to be squanderers and wasters. These, I confess, are little things, 
and such as will seem beneath the care of a governor; but nothing 
that may form children's minds is to be overlooked and neglected, 
and whatsoever introduces habits, and settles customs in them, de- 
serves the care and attention of their governors, and is not a small 
thing in its consequences. 

One thing more about children's play-things may be worth their 
parents' care. Though it be agreed they should have of several 
sorts, yet, I think, they^ should have none bought for them. This will 
hinder that great variety they are often overcharged with, which 
serves only to teach the mind to wander after change and superfluity, 
to be unquiet, and perpetually stretching itself after something more 
still, though it knows not what, and never to be satisfied with what 
it hath. The court that is made to people of condition in such kind 
of presents to their children, does the little ones great harm. By it 
they are taught pride, vanity and covetousness, almost before they 
can speak: and I have known a young child so distracted with the 
number and variety of his play-games, that he tired his maid every 
day to look them over; and was so accustomed to abundance, that he 



PLAY-GAMES 113 

never thought he had enough, but was always asking, What more? 
What more? What new thing shall I have? A good introduction 
to moderate desires, and the ready way to make a contented happy 
man! 

"How then shall they have the play-games you allow them, if none 
must be bought for them?" I answer, they should make them them- 
selves, or at least endeavour it, and set themselves about it; till then 
they should have none, and till then they will want none of any great 
artifice. A smooth pebble, a piece of paper, the mother's bunch of 
keys, or any thing they cannot hurt themselves with, serves as much 
to divert little children as those more chargeable and curious toys 
from the shops, which are presently put out of order and broken. 
Children are never dull, or out of humour, for want of such play- 
things, unless they have been used to them; when they are little, 
whatever occurs serves the turn; and as they grow bigger, if they are 
not stored by the expensive folly of others, they will make them them- 
selves. Indeed, when they once begin to set themselves to work about 
any of their inventions, they should be taught and assisted; but should 
have nothing whilst they lazily sit still, expecting to be f urnish'd from 
other hands, without employing their own. And if you help them 
where they are at a stand, it will more endear you to them than any 
chargeable toys you shall buy for them. Play-things which are above 
their skill to make, as tops, gigs, battledores, and the like, which are to 
be used with labour, should indeed be procured them. These 'tis con- 
venient they should have, not for variety but exercise; but these too 
should be given them as bare as might be. If they had a top, the 
scourge-stick and leather-strap should be left to their own making 
and fitting. If they sit gaping to have such things drop into their 
mouths, they should go without them. This will accustom them to 
seek for what they want, in themselves and in their own endeavours; 
whereby they will be taught moderation in their desires, application, 
industry, thought, contrivance, and good husbandry; qualities that 
will be useful to them when they are men, and therefore cannot be 
learned too soon, nor fixed too deep. All the plays and diversions of 
children should be directed towards good and useful habits, or else 
they will introduce ill ones. Whatever they do, leaves some impres- 
sion on that tender age, and from thence they receive a tendency to 



114 JOHN LOCKE 

good or evil: and whatever hath such an influence, ought not to be 
neglected. 

131. Lying is so ready and cheap a cover for any miscarriage, 
and so much in fashion among all sorts of people, that a child can 
hardly avoid observing the use is made of it on all occasions, and so 
can scarce be kept without great care from getting into it. But it is so 
ill a quality, and the mother of so many ill ones that spawn from it, 
and take shelter under it, that a child should be brought up in the 
greatest abhorrence of it imaginable. It should be always (when oc- 
casionally it comes to be mention'd) spoke of before him with the 
utmost detestation, as a quality so wholly inconsistent with the name 
and character of a gentleman, that no body of any credit can bear the 
imputation of a lie; a mark that is judg'd the utmost disgrace, which 
debases a man to the lowest degree of a shameful meanness, and 
ranks him with the most contemptible part of mankind and the ab- 
horred rascality; and is not to be endured in any one who would con- 
verse with people of condition, or have any esteem or reputation in 
the world. The first time he is found in a lie, it should rather be 
wondered at as a monstrous thing in him, than reproved as an ordi- 
nary fault. If that keeps him not from relapsing, the next time he must 
be sharply rebuked, and fall into the state of great displeasure of his 
father and mother and all about him who take notice of it. And if 
this way work not the cure, you must come to blows; for after he has 
been thus warned, a premeditated lie must always be looked upon as 
obstinacy, and never be permitted to escape unpunished. 

132. Children, afraid to have their faults seen in their naked 
colours, will, like the rest of the sons of Adam, be apt to make 
excuses. This is a fault usually bordering upon, and leading to un- 
truth, and is not to be indulged in them; but yet it ought to be cured 
rather with shame than roughness. If therefore, when a child is 
questioned for any thing, his first answer be an excuse, warn him 
soberly to tell the truth; and then if he persists to shuffle it off with 
a falsehood, he must be chastised; but if he directly confess, you must 
commend his ingenuity, and pardon the fault, be it what it will; and 
pardon it so, that you never so much as reproach him with it, or men- 
tion it to him again: for if you would have him in love with in- 
genuity, and by a constant practice make it habitual to him, you 



THE FOUR REQUISITES 115 

must take care that it never procure him the least inconvenience; but 
on the contrary, his own confession bringing always with it perfect 
impunity, should be besides encouraged by some marks of approba- 
tion. If his excuse be such at any time that you cannot prove it to 
have any falsehood in it, let it pass for true, and be sure not to shew 
any suspicion of it. Let him keep up his reputation with you as high 
as is possible; for when once he finds he has lost that, you have lost 
a great, and your best hold upon him. Therefore let him not think 
he has the character of a liar with you, as long as you can avoid it 
without flattering him in it. Thus some slips in truth may be over- 
looked. But after he has once been corrected for a lie, you must be 
sure never after to pardon it in him, whenever you find and take 
notice to him that he is guilty of it: for it being a fault which he has 
been forbid, and may, unless he be wilful, avoid, the repeating of it 
is perfect perverseness, and must have the chastisement due to that 
oflfence. 

133. This is what I have thought concerning the general method 
of educating a young gentleman; which, though I am apt to suppose 
may have some influence on the whole course of his education, yet I 
am far from imagining it contains all those particulars which his 
growing years or peculiar temper may require. But this being pre- 
mised in general, we shall in the next place, descend to a more 
particular consideration of the several parts of his education. 

134. That which every gentleman (that takes any care of his 
education) desires for his son, besides the estate he leaves him, is 
contain'd (I suppose) in these four things, virtue, wisdom, breeding 
and learning. I will not trouble my self whether these names do not 
some of them sometimes stand for the same thing, or really include 
one another. It serves my turn here to follow the popular use of 
these words, which, I presume, is clear enough to make me be under- 
stood, and I hope there will be no difficulty to comprehend my 
meaning. 

135. I place virtue as the first and most necessary of those en- 
dowments that belong to a man or a gentleman; as absolutely 
requisite to make him valued and beloved by others, acceptable or 
tolerable to himself. Without that, I think, he will be happy neither 
in this nor the other world. 



Il6 JOHN LOCKE 

136. As the foundation of this, there ought very early to be 
imprinted on his mind a true notion of God, as of the independent 
Supreme Being, Author and Maker of all things, from Whom 
we receive all our good, Who loves us, and gives us all things. And 
consequent to this, instil into him a love and reverence of this Su- 
preme Being. This is enough to begin with, without going to ex- 
plain this matter any farther; for fear lest by talking too early to him 
of spirits, and being unseasonably forward to make him understand 
the incomprehensible nature of that Infinite Being, his head be either 
fill'd with false, or perplex'd with unintelligible notions of Him. 
Let him only be told upon occasion, that God made and governs 
all things, hears and sees every thing, and does all manner of good 
to those that love and obey Him; you will find, that being told of 
such a God, other thoughts will be apt to rise up fast enough in his 
mind about Him; which, as you observe them to have any mistakes, 
you must set right. And I think it would be better if men generally 
rested in such an idea of God, without being too curious in their 
notions about a Being which all must acknowledge incompre- 
hensible; whereby many, who have not strength and clearness of 
thought to distinguish between what they can, and what they can- 
not know, run themselves in superstitions or atheism, making God 
like themselves, or (because they cannot comprehend any thing else) 
none at all. And I am apt to think, the keeping children constantly 
morning and evening to acts of devotion to God, as to their Maker, 
Preserver and Benefactor, in some plain and short form of prayer, 
suitable to their age and capacity, will be of much more use to them 
in religion, knowledge, and virtue, than to distract their thoughts 
with curious enquiries into His inscrutable essence and being. 

137. Having by gentle degrees, as you find him capable of it, 
settled such an idea of God in his mind, and taught him to pray to 
Him, and praise Him as the Author of his being, and of all the good 
he does or can enjoy; forbear any discourse of other spirits, till the 
mention of them coming in his way, upon occasion hereafter to be 
set down, and his reading the scripture-history, put him upon that 
enquiry. 

138. But even then, and always whilst he is young, be sure to 
preserve his tender mind from all impressions and notions of spirits 



GOBLINS 117 

and goblins, or any fearful apprehensions in the dark. This he will 
be in danger of from the indiscretion of servants, whose usual 
method is to awe children, and keep them in subjection, by telling 
them of raw-head and bloody-bones, and such other names as carry 
with them the ideas of something terrible and hurtful, which they 
have reason to be afraid of when alone, especially in the dark. This 
must be carefully prevented: for though by this foolish way, they 
may keep them from little faults, yet the remedy is much worse than 
the disease; and there are stamped upon their imaginations ideas that 
follow them with terror and afTrightment. Such bug-bear thoughts 
once got into the tender minds of children, and being set on with a 
strong impression from the dread that accompanies such apprehen- 
sions, sink deep, and fasten themselves so as not easily, if ever, to be 
got out again; and whilst they are there, frequently haunt them with 
strange visions, making children dastards when alone, and afraid of 
their shadows and darkness all their lives after. I have had those 
complain to me, when men, who had been thus used when young; 
that though their reason corrected the wrong ideas they had taken 
in, and they were satisfied that there was no cause to fear invisible 
beings more in the dark than in the light, yet that these notions were 
apt still upon any occasion to start up first in their prepossessed fan- 
cies, and not to be removed without some pains. And to let you see 
how lasting and frightful images are, that take place in the mind 
early, I shall here tell you a pretty remarkable but true story. There 
was in a town in the west a man of a disturbed brain, whom the boys 
used to teaze when he came in their way : this fellow one day seeing 
in the street one of those lads, that used to vex him, stepped into a 
cutler's shop he was near, and there seizing on a naked sword, made 
after the boy; who seeing him coming so armed, betook himself to 
his feet, and ran for his life, and by good luck had strength and heels 
enough to reach his father's house before the mad-man could get up 
to him. The door was only latch'd; and when he had the latch in his 
hand, he turn'd about his head, to see how near his pursuer was, who 
was at the entrance of the porch, with his sword up ready to strike; 
and he had just time to get in, and clap to the door to avoid the blow, 
which, though his body escaped, his mind did not. This frightening 
idea made so deep an impression there, that it lasted many years, if 



Il8 JOHN LOCKE 

not all his life after. For, telling this story when he was a man, he 
said, that after that time till then, he never went in at that door 
(that he could remember) at any time without looking back, what- 
ever business he had in his head, or how little soever before he came 
thither he thought of this mad-man. 

If children were let alone, they would be no more afraid in the 
dark, than in broad sun-shine; they would in their turns as much 
welcome the one for sleep as the other to play in. There should be 
no distinction made to them by any discourse of more danger or 
terrible things in the one than the other : but if the folly of any one 
about them should do them -this harm, and make them think there is 
any difference between being in the dark and winking, you must get 
it out of their minds as soon as you can; and let them know, that God, 
who made all things good for them, made the night that they 
might sleep the better and the quieter; and that they being under his 
protection, there is nothing in the dark to hurt them. What is to be 
known more of God and good spirits, is to be deferr'd till the time 
we shall hereafter mention; and of evil spirits, 'twill be well if you 
can keep him from wrong fancies about them till he is ripe for 
that sort of knowledge. 

139. Having laid the foundations of virtue in a true notion of a 
God, such as the creed wisely teaches, as far as his age is capable, and 
by accustoming him to pray to Him; the next thing to be taken care 
of is to keep him exactly to speaking of truth, and by all the ways 
imaginable inclining him to be good-natur'd. Let him know that 
twenty faults are sooner to be forgiven than the straining of truth to 
cover any one by an excuse. And to teach him betimes to love and 
be good-natur'd to others, is to lay early the true foundation of an 
honest man; all injustice generally springing from too great love 
of ourselves and too little of others. 

This is all I shall say of this matter in general, and is enough for 
laying the first foundations of virtue in a child: as he grows up, the 
tendency of his natural inclination must be observed; which, as it 
inclines him more than is convenient on one or t'other side from the 
right path of virtue, ought to have proper remedies applied. For 
few of Adam's children are so happy, as not to be born with some 
byass in their natural temper, which it is the business of education 



WISDOM 

either to take off, or counterbalance. But to enter into particulars of 
this, would be beyond the design of this short treatise of education. I 
intend not a discourse of all the virtues and vices, how each virtue 
is to be attained, and every particular vice by its peculiar remedies 
cured: though I have mentioned some of the most ordinary faults, 
and the ways to be used in correcting them. 

140. Wisdom I take in the popular acceptation, for a man's 
managing his business ably and with foresight in this world. This 
is the product of a good natural temper, application of mind, and ex- 
perience together, and so above the reach of children. The greatest 
thing that in them can be done towards it, is to hinder them, as much 
as may be, from being cunning; which, being the ape of wisdom, is 
the most distant from it that can be: and as an ape for the likeness 
it has to a man, wanting what really should make him so, is by so 
much the uglier; cunning is only the want of understanding, which 
because it cannot compass its ends by direct ways, would do it by a 
trick and circumvention; and the mischief of it is, a cunning trick 
helps but once, but hinders ever after. No cover was ever made so 
big or so fine as to hide it self: no body was ever so cunning as to 
Conceal their being so: and when they are once discovered, every body 
is shy, every body distrustful of crafty men; and all the world for- 
wardly join to oppose and defeat them; whilst the open, fair, wise 
man has every body to make way for him, and goes directly to his 
business. To accustom a child to have true notions of things, and 
not to be satisfied till he has them; to raise his mind to great and 
worthy thoughts, and to keep him at a distance from falsehood and 
cunning, which has always a broad mixture of falsehood in it; is 
the fittest preparation of a child for wisdom. The rest, which is to be 
learn'd from time, experience, and observation, and an acquaint- 
ance with men, their tempers and designs, is not to be expected in 
the ignorance and inadvertency of childhood, or the inconsiderate 
heat and unweariness of youth : all that can be done towards it, dur- 
ing this unripe age, is, as I have said, to accustom them to truth and 
sincerity; to a submission to reason; and as much as may be, to 
reflection on their own actions. 

141. The next good quality belonging to a gentleman, is good 
breeding. There are two sorts of ill-breeding: the one a sheepish 



120 JOHN LOCKE 

bashf ulness, and the other a mis-becoming negligence and disrespect 
in our carriage; both which are avoided by duly observing this one 
rule, not to thin\ meanly of ourselves, and not to thinly meanly 
of others. 

142. The first part of this rule must not be understood in opposi- 
tion to humility, but to assurance. We ought not -to think so well of 
our selves, as to stand upon our own value; and assume to our selves 
a preference before others, because of any advantage we may imagine 
we have over them; but modestly to take what is offered, when it is 
our due. But yet we ought to think so well of our selves, as to per- 
form those actions which are incumbent on, and expected of us, with- 
out discomposure or disorder, in whose presence soever we are; keep- 
ing that respect and distance which is due to every one's rank and 
quality. There is often in people, especially children, a clownish 
shamefacedness before strangers or those above them: they are con- 
founded in their thoughts, words, and looks; and so lose themselves 
in that confusion as not to be able to do any thing, or at least not to do 
it with that freedom and gracefulness which pleases, and makes them 
be acceptable. The only cure for this, as for any other miscarriage, 
is by use to introduce the contrary habit. But since we cannot accus- 
tom ourselves to converse with strangers and persons of quality 
without being in their company, nothing can cure this part of ill- 
breeding but change and variety of company, and that of persons 
above us. 

143. As the before-mentioned consists in too great a concern 
how to behave ourselves towards others; so the other part of ill- 
breeding lies in the appearance of too little care of pleasing or shew- 
ing respect to those we have to do with. To avoid this these two 
things are requisite: first, a disposition of the mind not to offend 
others; and secondly, the most acceptable and agreeable way of ex- 
pressing that disposition. From the one men are called civil; from 
the other well-fashion d. The latter of these is that decency and 
gracefulness of looks, voice, words, motions, gestures, and of all the 
whole outward demeanour, which takes in company, and makes those 
with whom we may converse, easy and well pleased. This is, as it 
were, the language whereby that internal civility of the mind is ex- 
pressed; which, as other languages are, being very much governed 



CONTEMPT 121 

by the fashion and custom of every country, must, in the rules and 
practice of it, be learn'd chiefly from observation, and the carriage 
of those who are allow'd to be exactly well-bred. The other part, 
which lies deeper than the outside, is that general good-will and 
regard for all people, which makes any one have a care not to shew in 
his carriage any contempt, disrespect, or neglect of them; but to ex- 
press, according to the fashion and way of that country, a respect 
and value for them according to their rank and condition. It is a 
disposition of the mind that shews it self in the carriage, whereby a 
man avoids making any one uneasy in conversation. 

I shall take notice of four qualities, that are most directly opposite 
to this first and most taking of all the social virtues. And from some 
one of these four it is, that incivility commonly has its rise. I shall set 
them down, that children may be preserv'd or recover'd from their 
ill influence. 

1. The first is, a natural roughness, which makes a man unccm- 
plaisant to others, so that he has no deference for their inclinations, 
tempers, or conditions. 'Tis the sure badge of a clown, not to mind 
what pleases or displeases those he is with; and yet one may often 
find a man in fashionable clothes give an unbounded swing to his 
own humour, and suffer it to justle or over-run any one that stands 
in its way, with a perfect indifferency how they take it. This is a 
brutality that every one sees and abhors, and nobody can be easy 
with: and therefore this finds no place in any one who would be 
thought to have the least tincture of good-breeding. For the very end 
and business of good-breeding is to supple the natural stiffness, and 
so soften men's tempers, that they may bend to a compliance, and 
accommodate themselves to those they have to do with. 

2. Contempt, or want of due respect, discovered either in looks, 
words, or gesture : this, from whomsoever it comes, brings always un- 
easiness with it. For nobody can contentedly bear being slighted. 

3. Censoriousness, and finding fault with others, has a direct 
opposition to civility. Men, whatever they are or are not guilty of, 
would not have their faults display'd and set in open view and broad 
day-light, before their own or other people's eyes. Blemishes affixed 
to any one always carry shame with them : and the discovery, or even 
bare imputation of any defect is not borne without some uneasiness. 



122 JOHN LOCKE 

Raillery is the most refined way of exposing the faults of others : but, 
because it is usually done with wit and good language, and gives 
entertainment to the company, people are led into a mistake, that 
where it keeps within fair bounds there is no incivility in it. And so 
the pleasantry of this sort of conversation often introduces it amongst 
people of the better rank; and such talkers are favourably heard and 
generally applauded by the laughter of the bystanders on their side. 
But they ought to consider, that the entertainment of the rest of the 
company is at the cost of that one who is set out in their burlesque col- 
ours, who therefore is not without uneasiness, unless the subject for 
which he is rallied be really in itself matter of commendation. For 
then the pleasant images and representations which make the raillery 
carrying praise as well as sport with them, the rallied person also 
finds his account, and takes part in the diversion. But because the 
right management of so nice and ticklish a business, wherein a little 
slip may spoil all, is not every body's talent, I think those who would 
secure themselves from provoking others, especially all young people, 
should carefully abstain from raillery, which by a small mistake or 
any wrong turn, may leave upon the mind of those who are made 
uneasy by it, the lasting memory of having been piquantly, tho' wit- 
tily, taunted for some thing censurable in them. 

Besides raillery, contradiction is a sort of censoriousness wherein 
ill-breeding often shews it self. Complaisance does not require that 
we should always admit all the reasonings or relations that the com- 
pany is entertain'd with, no, nor silently to let pass all that is vented 
in our hearing. The opposing the opinions, and rectifying the mis- 
takes of others, is what truth and charity sometimes require of us, and 
civility does not oppose, if it be done with due caution and care of 
circumstances. But there are some people, that one may observe, 
possessed as it were with the spirit of contradiction, that steadily, and 
without regard to right or wrong, oppose some one, or, perhaps, every 
one of the company, whatever they say. This is so visible and out- 
rageous a way of censuring, that nobody can avoid thinking himself 
injur'd by it. All opposition to what another man has said, is so 
apt to be suspected of censoriousness, and is so seldom received with- 
out some sort of humiliation, that it ought to be made in the 
gentlest manner, and softest words can be found, and such as with 



CAPTIOUSNESS 123 

the whole deportment may express no forwardness to contradict. 
All marks of respect and good will ought to accompany it, that whilst 
we gain the argument, we may not lose the esteem of those that 
Vear us. 

4. Cautiousness is another fault opposite to civility; not only be- 
cause it often produces misbecoming and provoking expressions and 
carriage; but because it is a tacit accusation and reproach of some 
incivility taken notice of in those whom we are angry with. Such a 
suspicion or intimation cannot be borne by any one without uneasi- 
ness. Besides, one angry body discomposes the whole company, and 
the harmony ceases upon any such jarring. 

The happiness that all men so steadily pursue consisting in pleas- 
ure, it is easy to see why the civil are more acceptable than the useful. 
The ability, sincerity, and good intention of a man of weight and 
worth, or a real friend, seldom atones for the uneasiness that is pro- 
duced by his grave and solid representations. Power and riches, nay 
virtue itself, are valued only as conducing to our happiness. And 
therefore he recommends himself ill to another as aiming at his 
happiness, who, in the services he does him, makes him uneasy in 
the manner of doing them. He that knows how to make those he 
converses with easy, without debasing himself to low and servile 
flattery, has found the true art of living in the world, and being both 
welcome and valued every where. Civility therefore is what in the 
first place should with great care be made habitual to children and 
young people. 

144. There is another fault in good manners, and that is excess 
of ceremony, and an obstinate persisting to force upon another what 
is not his due, and what he cannot take without folly or shame. This 
seems rather a design to expose than oblige: or at least looks like a 
contest for mastery, and at best is but troublesome, and so can be no 
part of good-breeding, which has no other use or end but to make 
people easy and satisfied in their conversation with us. This is a 
fault few young people are apt to fall into; but yet if they are ever 
guilty of it, or are suspected to incline that way, they should be told 
of it, and warned of this mistaken civility. The thing they should 
endeavour and aim at in conversation, should be to shew respect, 
esteem, and good-will, by paying to every one that common cere- 



124 JOHN LOCKE 

mony and regard which is in civility due to them. To do this without 
a suspicion of flattery, dissimulation, or meanness, is a great skill, 
which good sense, reason, and good company can only teach; but is 
of so much use in civil life that it is well worth the studying. 

145. Though the managing ourselves well in this part of our 
behaviour has the name of good-breeding, as if peculiarly the effect 
of education; yet, as I have said, young children should not be much 
perplexed about it; I mean, about putting off their hats, and making 
legs modishly. Teach them humility, and to be good-natur'd, if you 
can, and this sort of manners will not be wanting; civility being in 
truth nothing but a care not to shew any slighting or contempt of 
any one in conversation. What are the most allow'd and esteem'd 
ways of expressing this, we have above observ'd. It is as peculiar and 
different, in several countries of the world, as their languages; and 
therefore, if it be rightly considered, rules and discourses made to 
children about it, are as useless and impertinent, as it would be now 
and then to give a rule or two of the Spanish tongue to one that con- 
verses only with Englishmen. Be as busy as you please with dis- 
courses of civility to your son, such as is his company, such will be 
his manners. A plough-man of your neighbourhood that has never 
been out of his parish, read what lectures you please to him, will be 
as soon in his language as his carriage a courtier; that is, in neither 
will be more polite than those he uses to converse with: and there- 
fore, of this no other care can be taken till he be of an age to have 
a tutor put to him, who must not fail to be a well-bred man. And, 
in good earnest, if I were to speak my mind freely, so children do 
nothing out of obstinacy, pride, and ill-nature, 'tis no great matter 
how they put off their hats or make legs. If you can teach them to 
love and respect other people, they will, as their age requires it, find 
ways to express it acceptably to every one, according to the fashions 
they have been used to : and as to their motions and carriage of their 
bodies, a dancing-master, as has been said, when it is fit, will teach 
them what is most becoming. In the mean time, when they are 
young, people expect not that children should be over-mindful of 
these ceremonies; carelessness is allow'd to that age, and becomes 
them as well as compliments do grown people: or, at least, if some 
very nice people will think it a fault, I am sure it is a fault that should 



INTERRUPTION 125 

be over-look'd, and left to time, a tutor and conversation to cure. 
And therefore I think it not worth your while to have your son (as I 
often see children are) molested or chid about it: but where there 
is pride or ill-nature appearing in his carriage, there he must be per- 
suaded or shamed out of it. 

Though children, when little, should not be much perplexed with 
rules and ceremonious parts of breeding, yet there is a sort of unman- 
nerliness very apt to grow up with young people, if not early re- 
strained, and that is, a forwardness to interrupt others that are speak- 
ing; and to stop them with some contradiction. Whether the custom 
of disputing, and the reputation of parts and learning usually given 
to it as if it were the only standard and evidence of knowledge, make 
young men so forward to watch occasions to correct others in their 
discourse, and not to slip any opportunity of shewing their talents: 
so it is, that I have found scholars most blamed in this point. There 
cannot be a greater rudeness, than to interrupt another in the current 
of his discourse; for if there be not impertinent folly in answering a 
man before we know what he will say, yet it is a plain declaration, 
that we are weary to hear him talk any longer, and have a dis- 
esteem of what he says; which we judging not fit to entertain the 
company, desire them to give audience to us, who have something to 
produce worth their attention. This shews a very great disrespect, 
and cannot but be offensive: and yet this is what almost all inter- 
ruption constantly carries with it. To which, if there be added, as is 
usual, a correcting of any mistake, of a contradiction of what has been 
said, it is a mark of yet greater pride and self-conceitedness, when we 
thus intrude our selves for teachers, and take upon us either to set 
another right in his story, or shew the mistakes of his judgment. 

I do not say this, that I think there should be no difference of 
opinions in conversation, nor opposition in men's discourses: this 
would be to take away the greatest advantage of society, and the im- 
provements are to be made by ingenious company; where the light 
is to be got from the opposite arguings of men of parts, shewing 
the different sides of things and their various aspects and probabili- 
ties, would be quite lost, if every one were obliged to assent to, and 
say after the first speaker. 'Tis not the owning one's dissent trom 
another, that I speak against, but the manner of doing it. Young 



126 JOHN LOCKE 

men should be taught not to be forward to interpose their opinions, 
unless asked, or when others have done, and are silent; and then only 
by way of enquiry, not instruction. The positive asserting, and the 
magisterial air should be avoided; and when a general pause of the 
whole company affords an opportunity, they may modestly put in 
their question as learners. 

This becoming decency will not cloud their parts, nor weaken the 
strength of their reason; but bespeak the more favourable attention, 
and give what they say the greater advantage. An ill argument, or 
ordinary observation, thus introduc'd, with some civil preface of 
deference and respect to the opinions of others, will procure them 
more credit and esteem than the sharpest wit, or profoundest science, 
with a rough, insolent, or noisy management, which always shocks 
the hearers, leaves an ill opinion of the man, though he get the better 
of it in the argument. 

This therefore should be carefully watched in young people, stopp'd 
in the beginning, and the contrary habit introduced in all their 
conversation. And the rather, because forwardness to talk, frequent 
interruptions in arguing, and loud wrangling, are too often observ- 
able amongst grown people, even of rank, amongst us. The Indians, 
whom we call barbarous, observe much more decency and civility 
in their discourses and conversation, giving one another a fair silent 
hearing till they have quite done; and then answering them calmly, 
and without noise or passion. And if it be not so in this civiliz'd 
part of the world, w j must impute it to a neglect in education, which 
has not yet reform'd this antient piece of barbarity amongst us. 
Was it not, think you, an entertaining spectacle, to see two ladies of 
quality accidentally seated on the opposite sides of a room, set round 
with company, fall into a dispute, and grow so eager in it, that in the 
heat of the controversy, edging by degrees their chairs forwards, they 
were in a little time got up close to one another in the middle of 
the room; where they for a good while managed the dispute as 
fiercely as two game-cocks in the pit, without minding or taking any 
notice of the circle, which could not all the while forbear smiling? 
This I was told by a person of quality, who was present at the com- 
bat, and did not omit to reflect upon the indecencies that warmth in 
dispute often runs people into; which, since custom makes too fre- 



COMPANY 127 

quent, education should take the more care of. There is no body but 
condemns this in others, though they overlook it in themselves; and 
many who are sensible of it in themselves, and resolve against it, 
cannot yet get rid of an ill custom, which neglect in their education 
has suffer'd to settle into an habit. 

146. What has been above said concerning company, would per- 
haps, if it were well reflected on, give us a larger prospect, and let us 
see how much farther its influence reaches. 'Tis not the modes of 
civility alone, that are imprinted by conversation: the tincture of 
company sinks deeper than the out-side; and possibly, if a true esti- 
mate were made of the morality and religions of the world, we 
should find that the far greater part of mankind received even those 
opinions, and ceremonies they would die for, rather from the fashions 
of their countries, and the constant practice of those about them, than 
from any conviction of their reasons. I mention this only to let you 
see of what moment I think company is to your son in all the parts 
of his life, and therefore how much that one part is to be weighed 
and provided for; it being of greater force to work upon him, than 
all you can do besides. 

147. You will wonder, perhaps, that I put learning last, especially 
if I tell you I think it the least part. This may seem strange in the 
mouth of a bookish man; and this making usually the chief, if not 
only bustle and stir about children, this being almost that alone 
which is thought on, when people talk of education, makes it the 
greater paradox. When I consider, what ado is made about a little 
Latin and Gree\, how many years are spent in it, and what a noise 
and business it makes to no purpose, I can hardly forbear thinking 
that the parents of children still live in fear of the school-master's 
rod, which they look on as the only instrument of education; as a 
language or two to be its whole business. How else is it possible that 
a child should be chain'd to the oar seven, eight, or ten of the best 
years of his life, to get a language or two, which, I think, might be 
had at a great deal cheaper rate of pains and time, and be learn'd 
almost in playing? 

Forgive me therefore if I say, I cannot with patience think, that 
a young gentleman should be put into the herd, and be driven with 
a whip and scourge, as if he were to run the gantlet through the 



128 JOHN LOCKE 

several classes, ad capiendum in genii cultum. What then? say you, 
would you not have him write and read ? Shall he be more ignorant 
than the clerk of our parish, who takes Hopkins and Stern hold for 
the best poets in the world, whom yet he makes worse than they are 
by his ill reading? Not so, not so fast, I beseech you. Reading and 
writing and learning I allow to be necessary, but yet not the chief 
business. I imagine you would think him a very foolish fellow, that 
should not value a virtuous or a wise man infinitely before a great 
scholar. Not but that I think learning a great help to both in well- 
dispos'd minds; but yet it must be confess'd also, that in others not 
so dispos'd, it helps them only to be the more foolish, or worse men. 
I say this, that when you consider the breeding of your son, and are 
looking out for a school-master or a tutor, you would not have (as 
is usual) Latin and logict^ only in your thoughts. Learning must be 
had, but in the second place, as subservient only to greater qualities. 
Seek out somebody that may know how discreetly to frame his 
manners: place him in hands where you may, as much as possible, 
secure his innocence, cherish and nurse up the good, and gently cor- 
rect and weed out any bad inclinations, and settle in him good habits. 
This is the main point, and this being provided for, learning may be 
had into the bargain, and that, as I think, at a very easy rate, by 
methods that may be thought on. 

148. When he can talk, 'tis time he should begin to learn to read. 
But as to this, give me leave here to inculcate again, what is very apt 
to be forgotten, viz. That great care is to be taken, that it be never 
made as a business to him, nor he look on it as a task. We naturally, 
as I said, even from our cradles, love liberty, and have therefore an 
aversion to many things for no other reason but because they are 
enjoin'd us. I have always had a fancy that learning might be made 
a play and recreation to children : and that they might be brought to 
desire to be taught, if it were proposed to them as a thing of honour, 
credit, delight, and recreation, or as a reward for doing something 
else; and if they were never chid or corrected for the neglect of it. 
That which confirms me in this opinion is, that amongst the Portu- 
guese, 'tis so much a fashion and emulation amongst their children, 
to learn to read and write, that they cannot hinder them from it : they 
will learn it one from another, and are as intent on it, as if it were 
forbidden them. I remember that being at a friend's house, whose 



READING 129 

younger son, a child in coats, was not easily brought to his book 
(being taught to read at home by his mother) I advised to try 
another way, than requiring it of him as his duty ; we therefore, in a 
discourse on purpose amongst our selves, in his hearing, but without 
taking any notice of him, declared, that it was the privilege and ad- 
vantage of heirs and elder brothers, to be scholars; that this made 
them fine gentlemen, and beloved by every body: and that for 
younger brothers, 'twas a favour to admit them to breeding; to be 
taught to read and write, was more than came to their share; they 
might be ignorant bumpkins and clowns, if they pleased. This so 
wrought upon the child, that afterwards he desired to be taught; 
would come himself to his mother to learn, and would not let his 
maid be quiet till she heard him his lesson. I doubt not but some way 
like this might be taken with other children; and when their tempers 
are found, some thoughts be instill'd into them, that might set them 
upon desiring of learning, themselves, and make them seek it as an- 
other sort of play or recreation. But then, as I said before, it must 
never be imposed as a task, nor made a trouble to them. There may 
be dice and play-things, with the letters on them to teach children the 
alphabet by playing; and twenty other ways may be found, suitable 
to their particular tempers, to make this kind of learning a sport to 
them. 

149. Thus children may be cozen'd into a knowledge of the let- 
ters; be taught to read, without perceiving it to be any thing but a 
sport, and play themselves into that which others are whipp'd for. 
Children should not have any thing like work, or serious, laid on 
them; neither their minds, nor bodies will bear it. It injures their 
healths; and their being forced and tied down to their books in an 
age at enmity with all such restraint, has, I doubt not, been the rea- 
son, why a great many have hated books and learning all their lives 
after. 'Tis like a surfeit, that leaves an aversion behind not to be 
removed. 

150. I have therefore thought, that if play-things were fitted to 
this purpose, as they are usually to none, contrivances might be made 
to teach children to read, whilst they thought they were only playing. 
For example, what if an ivory-ball were made like that of the royal- 
oak lottery, with thirty two sides, or one rather of twenty four or 
twenty five sides; and upon several of those sides pasted on an A, 



130 JOHN LOCKE 

upon several others B, on others C, and on others DPI would have 
you begin with but these four letters, or perhaps only two at first; and 
when he is perfect in them, then add another; and so on till each side 
having one letter, there be on it the whole alphabet. This I would 
have others play with before him, it being as good a sort of play to lay 
a stake who shall first throw an A or B, as who upon dice shall throw 
six or seven. This being a play amongst you, tempt him not to it, lest 
you make it business; for I would not have him understand 'tis any 
thing but a play of older people, and I doubt not but he will take to 
it of himself. And that he may have the more reason to think it is a 
play, that he is sometimes in favour admitted to, when the play is 
done the ball should be laid up safe out of his reach, that so it may 
not, by his having it in his keeping at any time, grow stale to him. 

151. To keep up his eagerness to it, let him think it a game be- 
longing to those above him: and when, by this means, he knows 
the letters, by changing them into syllables, he may learn to read, 
without knowing how he did so, and never have any chiding or trou- 
ble about it, nor fall out with books because of the hard usage and 
vexation they have caus'd him. Children, if you observe them, take 
abundance of pains to learn several games, which, if they should be 
enjoined them, they would abhor as a task and business. I know a 
person of great quality (more yet to be honoured for his learning and 
virtue than for his rank and high place) who by pasting on the six 
vowels (for in our language Y is one) on the six sides of a die, and 
the remaining eighteen consonants on the sides of three other dice, 
has made this a play for his children, that he shall win who, at one 
cast, throws most words on these four dice; whereby his eldest son, 
yet in coats, has play'd himself into spelling, with great eagerness, 
and without once having been chid for it or forced to it. 

152. I have seen little girls exercise whole hours together and take 
abundance of pains to be expert at dibstones as they call it. Whilst 
I have been looking on, I have thought it wanted only some good 
contrivance to make them employ all that industry about something 
that might be more useful to them; and methinks 'tis only the fault 
and negligence of elder people that it is not so. Children are much 
less apt to be idle than men; and men are to be blamed if some part 
of that busy humour be not turned to useful things; which might be 
made usually as delightful to them as those they are employed in, 



READING 131 

if men would be but half so forward to lead the way, as these little 
apes would be to follow. I imagine some wise Portuguese heretofore 
began this fashion amongst the children of his country, where I have 
been told, as I said, it is impossible to hinder the children from learn- 
ing to read and write: and in some parts of France they teach one 
another to sing and dance from the cradle. 

153. The letters pasted upon the sides of the dice, or polygon, 
were best to be of the size of those of the folio Bible, to begin with, 
and none of them capital letters; when once he can read what is 
printed in such letters, he will not long be ignorant of the great 
ones : and in the beginning he should not be perplexed with variety. 
With this die also, you might have a play just like the royal oak, 
which would be another variety, and play for cherries or apples, &c. 

154. Besides these, twenty other plays might be invented de- 
pending on letters, which those who like this way, may easily con- 
trive and get made to this use if they will. But the four dice above- 
mention'd I think so easy and useful, that it will be hard to find any 
better, and there will be scarce need of any other. 

155. Thus much for learning to read, which let him never be 
driven to, nor chid for; cheat him into it if you can, but make it not 
a business for him. 'Tis better it be a year later before he can read, 
than that he should this way get an aversion to learning. If you have 
any contest with him, let it be in matters of moment, of truth, and 
good nature; but lay no task on him about ABC. Use your skill to 
make his will supple and pliant to reason: teach him to love credit 
and commendation; to abhor being thought ill or meanly of, espe- 
cially by you and his mother, and then the rest will come all easily. 
But I think if you will do that, you must not shackle and tie him up 
with rules about indifferent matters, nor rebuke him for every little 
fault, or perhaps some that to others would seem great ones; but of 
this I have said enough already. 

156. When by these gentle ways he begins to read, some easy 
pleasant book, suited to his capacity, should be put into his hands, 
wherein the entertainment that he finds might draw him on, and re- 
ward his pains in reading, and yet not such as should fill his head 
with perfectly useless trumpery, or lay the principles of vice and 
folly. To this purpose, I think /Esop's Fables the best, which being 
stories apt to delight and entertain a child, may yet afford useful re- 



132 JOHN LOCKE 

flections to a grown man; and if his memory retain them all his life 
after, he will not repent to find them there, amongst his manly 
thoughts and serious business. If his /Esop has pictures in it, it will 
entertain him much the better, and encourage him to read, when it 
carries the increase of knowledge with it: for such visible objects 
children hear talked of in vain and without any satisfaction whilst 
they have no ideas of them; those ideas being not to be had from 
sounds, but from the things themselves or their pictures. And there- 
fore I think as soon as he begins to spell, as many pictures of animals 
should be got him as can be found, with the printed names to them, 
which at the same time will invite him to read, and afford him 
matter of enquiry and knowledge. Reynard the Fox is another book 
I think may be made use of to the same purpose. And if those about 
him will talk to him often about the stories he has read, and hear him 
tell them, it will, besides other advantages, add encouragement and 
delight to his reading, when he finds there is some use and pleasure 
in it. These baits seem wholly neglected in the ordinary method; 
and 'tis usually long before learners find any use or pleasure in read- 
ing, which may tempt them to it, and so take books only for fashion- 
able amusements, or impertinent troubles, good for nothing. 

157. The Lord's Prayer, the Creeds, and Ten Commandments, 
'tis necessary he should learn perfectly by heart; but, I think, not by 
reading them himself in his primer, but by somebody's repeating 
them to him, even before he can read. But learning by heart, and 
learning to read, should not I think be mix'd, and so one made to 
clog the other. But his learning to read should be made as little 
trouble or business to him as might be. 

What other books there are in English of the kind of those above- 
mentioned, fit to engage the liking of children, and tempt them to 
read, I do not know: but am apt to think, that children being gen- 
erally delivered over to the method of schools, where the fear of 
the rod is to inforce, and not any pleasure of the employment to in- 
vite them to learn, this sort of useful books, amongst the number of 
silly ones that are of all sorts, have yet had the fate to be neglected; 
and nothing that I know has been considered of this kind out of the 
ordinary road of the horn-book, primer, psalter, Testament, and 
Bible. 



READING 133 

158. As for the Bible, which children are usually employed in to 
exercise and improve their talent in reading, I think the promiscuous 
reading of it through by chapters as they lie in order, is so far from 
being of any advantage to children, either for the perfecting their 
reading, or principling their religion, that perhaps a worse could not 
be found. For what pleasure or encouragement can it be to a child 
to exercise himself in reading those parts of a book where he under- 
stands nothing? And how little are the law of Moses, the song of 
Solomon, the prophecies in the Old, and the Epistles and Apocalypse 
in the New Testament, suited to a child's capacity? And though the 
history of the Evangelists and the Acts have something easier, yet, 
taken altogether, it is very disproportional to the understanding of 
childhood. I grant that the principles of religion are to be drawn 
from thence, and in the words of the scripture; yet none should be 
propos'd to a child, but such as are suited to a child's capacity and no- 
tions. But 'tis far from this to read through the whole Bible, and 
that for reading's sake. And what an odd jumble of thoughts must 
a child have in his head, if he have any at all, such as he should have 
concerning religion, who in his tender age reads all the parts of the 
Bible indifferently as the word of God without any other distinction! 
I am apt to think, that this in some men has been the very reason 
why they never had clear and distinct thoughts of it all their lifetime. 

159. And now I am by chance fallen on this subject, give me 
leave to say, that there are some parts of the Scripture which may 
be proper to be put into the hands of a child to engage him to read; 
such as are the story of Joseph and his brethren, of David and Go- 
liath, of David and Jonathan, &c. and others that he should be made 
to read for his instruction, as that, What you would have others do 
unto you, do you the same unto them; and such other easy and plain 
moral rules, which being fitly chosen, might often be made use of, 
both for reading and instruction together; and so often read till they 
are throughly fixed in the memory; and then afterwards, as he 
grows ripe for them, may in their turns on fit occasions be inculcated 
as the standing and sacred rules of his life and actions. But the read- 
ing of the whole Scripture indifferently, is what I think very incon- 
venient for children, till after having been made acquainted with the 
plainest fundamental parts of it, they have got some kind of general 



134 JOHN LOCKE 

view of what they ought principally to believe and practise; which 
yet, I think, they ought to receive in the very words o the scripture, 
and not in such as men prepossess'd by systems and analogies are apt 
in this case to make use of and force upon them. Dr. Worthington, to 
avoid this, has made a catechism, which has all its answers in the 
precise words of the Scripture; a thing of good example, and such a 
sound form of words as no Christian can except against as not fit for 
his child to learn. Of this, as soon as he can say the Lord's Prayer, 
Creed, the Ten Commandments, by heart, it may be fit for him to 
learn a question every day, or every week, as his understanding is 
able to receive and his memory to retain them. And when he has this 
catechism perfectly by heart, so as readily and roundly to answer to 
any question in the whole book, it may be convenient to lodge in his 
mind the remaining moral rules scatter'd up and down in the Bible, 
as the best exercise of his memory, and that which may be always a 
rule to him, ready at hand, in the whole conduct of his life. 

1 60. When he can read English well, it will be seasonable to 
enter him in writing: and here the first thing should be taught him is 
to hold his pen right; and this he should be perfect in before he 
should be suffered to put it to paper: For not only children but any 
body else that would do any thing well, should never be put upon too 
much of it at once, or be set to perfect themselves in two parts of an 
action at the same time, if they can possibly be separated. I think 
the Italian way of holding the pen between the thumb and the fore- 
finger alone, may be best; but in this you may consult some good 
writing-master, or any other person who writes well and quick. 
When he has learn'd to hold his pen right, in the next place he should 
learn how to lay his paper, and place his arm and body to it. These 
practices being got over, the way to teach him to write without much 
trouble, is to get a plate graved with the characters of such a hand 
as you like best : but you must remember to have them a pretty deal 
bigger than he should ordinarily write; for every one naturally comes 
by degrees to write a less hand than he at first was taught, but never 
a bigger. Such a plate being graved, let several sheets of good writ- 
ing-paper be printed off with red ink, which he has nothing to do but 
go over with a good pen filFd with black ink, which will quickly 
bring his hand to the formation of those characters, being at first 



LATIN 135 

shewed where to begin, and how to form every letter. And when he 
can do that well, he must then exercise on fair paper; and so may 
easily be brought to write the hand you desire. 

161. When he can write well and quick, I think it may be con- 
venient not only to continue the exercise of his hand in writing, but 
also to improve the use of it farther in drawing; a thing very useful 
to a gentleman in several occasions; but especially if he travel, as that 
which helps a man often to express, in a few lines well put together, 
what a whole sheet of paper in writing would not be able to repre- 
sent and make intelligible. How many buildings may a man see, 
how many machines and habits meet with, the ideas whereof would 
be easily retain'd and communicated by a little skill in drawing', 
which being committed to words, are in danger to be lost, or at best 
but ill retained in the most exact descriptions? I do not mean that 
I would have your son a perfect painter; to be that to any tolerable 
degree, will require more time than a young gentleman can spare 
from his other improvements of greater moment. But so much 
insight into perspective and skill in drawing, as will enable him to 
represent tolerably on paper any thing he sees, except faces, may, I 
think, be got in a little time, especially if he have a genius to it; 
but where that is wanting, unless it be in the things absolutely 
necessary, it is better to let him pass them by quietly, than to vex him 
about them to no purpose : and therefore in this, as in all other things 
not absolutely necessary, the rule holds, nil invita Minerva. 

f i. Short-hand, an art, as I have been told, known only in Eng- 
land, may perhaps be thought worth the learning, both for dispatch 
in what men write for their own memory, and concealment of what 
they would not have lie open to every eye. For he that has once 
learn'd any sort of character, may easily vary it to his own private use 
or fancy, and with more contraction suit it to the business he would 
employ it in. Mr. Rich's, the best contriv'd of any I have seen, may, as 
I think, by one who knows and considers grammar well, be made 
much easier and shorter. But for the learning this compendious way 
of writing, there will be no need hastily to look out a master; 
it will be early enough when any convenient opportunity offers itself 
at any time, after his hand is well settled in fair and quick writing. 
For boys have but little use of short hand, and should by no means 



136 JOHN LOCKE 

practise it till they write perfectly well, and have throughly fixed 
the habit of doing so. 

162. As soon as he can speak English, 'tis time for him to learn 
some other language. This no body doubts of, when French is 
propos'd. And the reason is, because people are accustomed to the 
right way of teaching that language, which is by talking it into 
children in constant conversation, and not by grammatical rules. 
The Latin tongue would easily be taught the same way, if his tutor, 
being constantly with him, would talk nothing else to him, and make 
him answer still in the same language. But because French is a 
living language, and to be used more in speaking, that should be 
first learned, that the yet pliant organs of speech might be accustomed 
to a due formation of those sounds, and he get the habit of pro- 
nouncing French well, which is the harder to be done the longer it 
is delay'd. 

163. When he can speak and read French well, which in this 
method is usually in a year or two, he should proceed to Latin, which 
'tis a wonder parents, when they have had the experiment in 
French, should not think ought to be learned the same way, by talk- 
ing and reading. Only care is to be taken whilst he is learning these 
foreign languages, by speaking and reading nothing else with his 
tutor, that he do not forget to read English, which may be preserved 
by his mother or some body else hearing him read some chosen parts 
of the scripture or other English book every day. 

164. Latin I look upon as absolutely necessary to a gentleman; 
and indeed custom, which prevails over every thing, has made it so 
much a part of education, that even those children are whipp'd to it, 
and made spend many hours of their precious time uneasily in Latin, 
who after they are once gone from school, are never to have more 
to do with it as long as they live. Can there be any thing more ridicu- 
lous, than that a father should waste his own money and his son's 
time in setting him to learn the Roman language, when at the same 
time he designs him for a trade, wherein he having no use of Latin, 
fails not to forget that little which he brought from school, and which 
'tis ten to one he abhors for the ill usage it procured him? Could 
it be believed, unless we had every where amongst us examples of 
it, that a child should be forced to learn the rudiments of a language 



LATIN 137 

which he is never to use in the course of life that he is designed to, 
and neglect all the while the writing a good hand and casting ac- 
counts, which are of great advantage in all conditions of life, and to 
most trades indispensably necessary? But though these qualifica- 
tions, requisite to trade and commerce and the business of the world, 
are seldom or never to be had at grammar-schools, yet thither not 
only gentlemen send their younger sons, intended for trades, but 
even tradesmen and farmers fail not to send their children, though 
they have neither intention nor ability to make them scholars. If you 
ask them why they do this, they think it as strange a question as if 
you should ask them, why they go to church. Custom serves for 
reason, and has, to those who take it for reason, so consecrated this 
method, that it is almost religiously observed by them, and they stick 
to it, as if their children had scarce an orthodox education unless 
they learned Lilly's grammar. 

165. But how necessary soever Latin be to some, and is thought 
to be to others to whom it is of no manner of use and service; yet the 
ordinary way of learning it in a grammar-school is that which having 
had thoughts about I cannot be forward to encourage. The reasons 
against it are so evident and cogent, that they have prevailed with 
some intelligent persons to quit the ordinary road, not without suc- 
cess, though the method made use of was not exactly what I imagine 
the easiest, and in short is this. To trouble the child with no grammar 
at all, but to have Latin, as English has been, without the perplexity 
of rules, talked into him; for if you will consider it, Latin is no more 
unknown to a child, when he comes into the world, than English: 
and yet he learns English without master, rule, or grammar; and so 
might he Latin too, as Tully did, if he had some body always to talk 
to him in this language. And when we so often see a French woman 
teach an English girl to speak and read French perfectly in a year 
or two, without any rule of grammar, or any thing else but prattling 
to her, I cannot but wonder how gentlemen have overseen this way 
for their sons, and thought them more dull or incapable than their 
daughters. 

1 66. If therefore a man could be got, who himself speaking good 
Latin, would always be about your son, talk constantly to him, and 
suffer him to speak or read nothing else, this would be the true 



138 JOHN LOCKE 

and genuine way, and that which I would propose, not only as the 
easiest and best, wherein a child might, without pains or chiding, 
get a language, which others are wont to be whipt for at school six 
or seven years together: but also as that, wherein at the same time 
he might have his mind and manners formed, and he be instructed 
to boot in several sciences, such as are a good part of geography, 
astronomy, chronology, anatomy, besides some parts of history, and 
all other parts of knowledge of things that fall under the senses and 
require little more than memory. For there, if we would take the 
true way, our knowledge should begin, and in those things be laid 
the foundation; and not in the abstract notions of logic \ and meta- 
physicfys, which are fitter to amuse than inform the understanding 
in its first setting out towards knowledge. When young men have 
had their heads employ'd a while in those abstract speculations 
without finding the success and improvement, or that use of them, 
which they expected, they are apt to have mean thoughts either of 
learning or themselves; they are tempted to quit their studies, and 
throw away their books as containing nothing but hard words and 
empty sounds; or else, to conclude, that if there be any real knowl- 
edge in them, they themselves have not understandings capable 
of it. That this is so, perhaps I could assure you upon my own 
experience. Amongst other things to be learned by a young gen- 
tleman in this method, whilst others of his age are wholly taken 
up with Latin and languages, I may also set down geometry for 
one; having known a young gentleman, bred something after 
this way, able to demonstrate several propositions in Euclid before 
he was thirteen. 

167. But if such a man cannot be got, who speaks good Latin, 
and being able to instruct your son in all these parts of knowledge, 
will undertake it by this method; the next best is to have him taught 
as near this way as may be, which is by taking some easy and pleas- 
ant book, such as /Esop's Fables, and writing the English translation 
(made as literal as it can be) in one line, and the Latin words which 
answer each of them, just over it in another. These let him read every 
day over and over again, till he perfectly understands the Latin; 
and then go on to another fable, till he be also perfect in that, not 
omitting what he is already perfect in, but sometimes reviewing that, 



LATIN 139 

to keep it in his memory. And when he comes to write, let these 
be set him for copies, which with the exercise of his hand will also 
advance him to Latin. This being a more imperfect way than by 
talking Latin unto him; the formation of the verbs first, and after- 
wards the declensions of the nouns and pronouns perfectly learned by 
heart, may facilitate his acquaintance with the genius and manner 
of the Latin tongue, which varies the signification of verbs and 
nouns, not as the modern languages do by particles prefix'd, but by 
changing the last syllables. More than this of grammar, I think he 
need not have, till he can read himself Sanctii Minerva, with Sciop- 
pius and Perizonius's notes. 

In teaching of children, this too, I think, is to be observed, that in 
most cases where they stick, they are not to be farther puzzled by 
putting them upon finding it out themselves; as by asking such 
questions as these, (viz.) which is the nominative case, in the sen- 
tence they are to construe; or demanding what aujero signifies, to 
lead them to the knowledge what abstlere signifies, &c., when they 
cannot readily tell. This wastes time only in disturbing them; for 
whilst they are learning, and apply themselves with attention, they 
are to be kept in good humour, and every thing made easy to them, 
and as pleasant as possible. Therefore, wherever they are at a stand, 
and are willing to go forwards, help them presently over the diffi- 
culty, without any rebuke or chiding, remembering, that where 
harsher ways are taken, they are the effect only of pride and peevish- 
ness in the teacher, who expects children should instantly be mas- 
ters of as much as he knows; whereas he should rather consider, that 
his business is to settle in them habits, not angrily to inculcate rules, 
which serve for little in the conduct of our lives; at least are of no 
use to children, who forget them as soon as given. In sciences where 
their reason is to be exercised, I will not deny but this method may 
sometimes be varied, and difficulties proposed on purpose to excite 
industry, and accustom the mind to employ its own strength and 
sagacity in reasoning. But yet, I guess, this is not to be done to 
children, whilst very young, nor at their entrance upon any sort of 
knowledge: then every thing of itself is difficult, and the great use 
and skill of a teacher is to make all as easy as he can: but particularly 
in learning of languages there is least occasion for posing of chil- 



140 JOHN LOCKE 

dren. For languages being to be learned by rote, custom and mem- 
ory, are then spoken in greatest perfection, when all rules of gram- 
mar are utterly forgotten. I grant the grammar of a language is 
sometimes very carefully to be studied, but it is not to be studied but 
by a grown man, when he applies himself to the understanding of 
any language critically, which is seldom the business of any but 
professed scholars. This I think will be agreed to, that if a gentle- 
man be to study any language, it ought to be that of his own country, 
that he may understand the language which he has constant use of, 
with the utmost accuracy. 

There is yet a further reason, why masters and teachers should raise 
no difficulties to their scholars; but on the contrary should smooth 
their way, and readily help them forwards, where they find them 
stop. Children's minds are narrow and weak, and usually susceptible 
but of one thought at once. Whatever is in a child's head, fills it for 
the time, especially if set on with any passion. It should therefore 
be the skill and art of the teacher to clear their heads of all other 
thoughts whilst they are learning of any thing, the better to make 
room for what he would instill into them, that it may be received 
with attention and application, without which it leaves no impres- 
sion. The natural temper of children disposes their minds to wan- 
der. Novelty alone takes them; whatever that presents, they are 
presently eager to have a taste of, and are as soon satiated with it. 
They quickly grow weary of the same thing, and so have almost 
their whole delight in change and variety. It is a contradiction to the 
natural state of childhood for them to fix their fleeting thoughts. 
Whether this be owing to the temper of their brains, or the quick- 
ness or instability of their animal spirits, over which the mind has 
not yet got a full command; this is visible, that it is a pain to children 
to keep their thoughts steady to any thing. A lasting continued at- 
tention is one of the hardest tasks can be imposed on them; and 
therefore, he that requires their application, should endeavour to 
make what he proposes as grateful and agreeable as possible; at 
least he ought to take care not to join any displeasing or frightful 
idea with it. If they come not to their books with some kind of liking 
and relish, 'tis no wonder their thoughts should be perpetually shift- 



LATIN 141 

ing from what disgusts them; and seek better entertainment in more 
pleasing objects, after which they will unavoidably be gadding. 

Tis, I know, the usual method of tutors, to endeavour to procure 
attention in their scholars, and to fix their minds to the business in 
hand, by rebukes and corrections, if they find them ever so little 
wandering. But such treatment is sure to produce the quite con- 
trary effect. Passionate words or blows from the tutor fill the child's 
mind with terror and aflrightment, which immediately takes it 
wholly up, and leaves no room for other impressions. I believe there 
is nobody that reads this, but may recollect what disorder hasty 
or imperious words from his parents or teachers have caused in his 
thoughts; how for the time it has turned his brains, so that he scarce 
knew what was said by or to him. He presently lost the sight of 
what he was upon, his mind was filled with disorder and confusion, 
and in that state was no longer capable of attention to any thing else. 

'Tis true, parents and governors ought to settle and establish their 
authority by an awe over the minds of those under their tuition; and 
to rule them by that : but when they have got an ascendant over them, 
they should use it with great moderation, and not make themselves 
such scare-crows that their scholars should always tremble in their 
sight. Such an austerity may make their government easy to them- 
selves, but of very little use to their pupils. 'Tis impossible children 
should learn any thing whilst their thoughts are possessed and dis- 
turbed with any passion, especially fear, which makes the strongest 
impression on their yet tender and weak spirits. Keep the mind in 
an easy calm temper, when you would have it receive your instruc- 
tions or any increase of knowledge. 'Tis as impossible to draw 
fair and regular characters on a trembling mind as on a shaking 
paper. 

The great skill of a teacher is to get and keep the attention of his 
scholar; whilst he has that, he is sure to advance as fast as the learn- 
er's abilities will carry him; and without that, all his bustle and 
pother will be to little or no purpose. To attain this, he should make 
the child comprehend (as much as may be) the usefulness of what 
he teaches him, and let him see, by what he has learnt, that he can 
do something which he could not do before; something, which gives 



142 JOHN LOCKE 

him some power and real advantage above others who are ignorant 
of it. To this he should add sweetness in all his instructions, and by 
a certain tenderness in his whole carriage, make the child sensible 
that he loves him and designs nothing but his good, the only way to 
beget love in the child, which will make him hearken to his lessons, 
and relish what he teaches him. 

Nothing but obstinacy should meet with any imperiousness or 
rough usage. All other faults should be corrected with a gentle hand; 
and kind engaging words will work better and more effectually upon 
a willing mind, and even prevent a good deal of that perverseness 
which rough and imperious usage often produces in well disposed 
and generous minds. 'Tis true, obstinacy and wilful neglects must 
be mastered, even though it cost blows to do it: but I am apt to 
think perverseness in the pupils is often the effect of frowardness in 
the tutor; and that most children would seldom have deserved blows, 
if needless and misapplied roughness had not taught them ill-nature, 
and given them an aversion for their teacher and all that comes 
from him. 

Inadvertency, forgetfulness, unsteadiness, and wandering of 
thought, are the natural faults of childhood; and therefore, where 
they are not observed to be wilful, are to be mention'd softly, and 
gain'd upon by time. If every slip of this kind produces anger and 
rating, the occasions of rebuke and corrections will return so often, 
that the tutor will be a constant terror and uneasiness to his pupils. 
Which one thing is enough to hinder their profiting by his lessons, 
and to defeat all his methods of instruction. 

Let the awe he has got upon their minds be so tempered with the 
constant marks of tenderness and good will, that affection may spur 
them to their duty, and make them find a pleasure in complying 
with his dictates. This will bring them with satisfaction to their 
tutor; make them hearken to him, as to one who is their friend, 
that cherishes them, and takes pains for their good: this will keep 
their thoughts easy and free whilst they are with him, the only tem- 
per wherein the mind is capable of receiving new informations, and 
of admitting into itself those impressions, which, if not taken and 
retain'd, all that they and their teachers do together is lost labour; 
there is much uneasiness and little learning. 



LATIN 143 

168. When by this way of interlining Latin and English one 
with another, he has got a moderate knowledge of the Latin tongue, 
he may then be advanced a little farther to the reading of some other 
easy Latin-book, such as Justin or Eutropius; and to make the read- 
ing and understanding of it the less tedious and difficult to him, let 
him help himself if he pleases with the English translation. Nor 
let the objection that he will then know it only by rote, fright any 
one. This, when well consider'd, is not of any moment against, but 
plainly for this way of learning a language. For languages are only 
to be learned by rote; and a man who does not speak English or 
Latin perfectly by rote, so that having thought of the thing he would 
speak of, his tongue of course, without thought of rule or grammar, 
falls into the proper expression and idiom of that language, does not 
speak it well, nor is master of it. And I would fain have any one 
name to me that tongue, that any one can learn, or speak as he should 
do, by the rules of grammar. Languages were made not by rules or 
art, but by accident, and the common use of the people. And he that 
will speak them well, has no other rule but that; nor any thing to 
trust to, but his memory, and the habit of speaking after the fashion 
learned from those, that are allowed to speak properly, which in 
other words is only to speak by rote. 

It will possibly be asked here, is grammar then of no use? and 
have those who have taken so much pains in reducing several 
languages to rules and observations; who have writ so much about 
declensions and conjugations, about concords and syntaxis, lost their 
labour, and been learned to no purpose? I say not so; grammar has 
its place too. But this I think I may say, there is more stir a great 
deal made with it than there needs, and those are tormented about 
it, to whom it does not at all belong; I mean children, at the age 
wherein they are usually perplexed with it in grammar-schools. 

There is nothing more evident, than that languages learnt by rote 
serve well enough for the common affairs of life and ordinary com- 
merce. Nay, persons of quality of the softer sex, and such of them 
as have spent their time in well-bred company, shew us, that this 
plain natural way, without the least study or knowledge of grammar, 
can carry them to a great degree of elegancy and politeness in their 
language: and there are ladies who, without knowing what tenses 



144 JOHN LOCKE 

and participles, adverbs and prepositions are, speak as properly and 
as correctly (they might take it for an ill compliment if I said as 
any country school-master) as most gentlemen who have been bred 
up in the ordinary methods of grammar-schools. Grammar there- 
fore we see may be spared in some cases. The question then will be, 
to whom should it be taught, and when ? To this I answer : 

1. Men learn languages for the ordinary intercourse of society 
and communication of thoughts in common life, without any farther 
design in the use of them. And for this purpose, the original way of 
learning a language by conversation not only serves well enough, 
but is to be preferred as the most expedite, proper and natural. 
Therefore, to this use of language one may answer, that grammar is 
not necessary. This so many of my readers must be forced to allow, 
as understand what I here say, and who conversing with others, 
understand them without having ever been taught the grammar of 
the English tongue. Which I suppose is the case of incomparably 
the greatest part of English men, of whom I have never yet known 
any one who learned his mother-tongue by rules. 

2. Others there are, the greatest part of whose business in this 
world is to be done with their tongues and with their pens; and to 
these it is convenient, if not necessary, that they should speak 
properly and correctly, whereby they may let their thoughts into 
other men's minds the more easily, and with the greater impression. 
Upon this account it is, that any sort of speaking, so as will make 
him be understood, is not thought enough for a gentleman. He 
ought to study grammar amongst the other helps of speaking well, 
but it must be the grammar of his own tongue, of the language he 
uses, that he may understand his own country speech nicely, and 
speak it properly, without shocking the ears of those it is addressed 
to, with solecisms and offensive irregularities. And to this purpose 
grammar is necessary; but it is the grammar only of their own proper 
tongues, and to those only who would take pains in cultivating their 
language, and in perfecting their stiles. Whether all gentlemen 
should not do this, I leave to be considered, since the want of pro- 
priety and grammatical exactness is thought very misbecoming one 
of that rank, and usually draws on one guilty of such faults the cen- 



LATIN 145 

sure of having had a lower breeding and worse company than suits 
with his quality. If this be so, (as I suppose it is) it will be matter 
of wonder why young gentlemen are forced to learn the grammars 
of foreign and dead languages, and are never once told of the gram- 
mar of their own tongues, they do not so much as know there is 
any such thing, much less is it made their business to be instructed 
in it. Nor is their own language ever proposed to them as worthy 
their care and cultivating, though they have daily use of it, and are 
not seldom, in the future course of their lives, judg'd of by their 
handsome or awkward way of expressing themselves in it. Whereas 
the languages whose grammars they have been so much employed in, 
are such as probably they shall scarce ever speak or write; or if, upon 
occasion, this should happen, they should be excused for the mis- 
takes and faults they make in it. Would not a Chinese who took 
notice of this way of breeding, be apt to imagine that all our young 
gentlemen were designed to be teachers and professors of the dead 
languages of foreign countries, and not to be men of business in 
their own? 

3. There is a third sort of men, who apply themselves to two or 
three foreign, dead, and (which amongst us are called the) learned 
languages, make them their study, and pique themselves upon their 
skill in them. No doubt, those who propose to themselves the learn- 
ing of any language with this view, and would be critically exact 
in it, ought carefully to study the grammar of it. I would not be 
mistaken here, as if this were to undervalue Gree\ and Latin. I grant 
these are languages of great use and excellency, and a man can have 
no place among the learned in this part of the world, who is a 
stranger to them. But the knowledge a gentleman would ordinarily 
draw for his use out of the Roman and GreeJ^ writers, I think he 
may attain without studying the grammars of those tongues, and by 
bare reading, may come to understand them sufficiently for all his 
purposes. How much farther he shall at any time be concerned to 
look into the grammar and critical niceties of either of these tongues, 
he himself will be able to determine when he comes to propose to 
himself the study of any thing that shall require it. Which brings me 
to the other part of the enquiry, viz. 



146 JOHN LOCKE 

When Grammar should be taught? 

To which, upon the premised grounds, the answer is obvious, viz. 

That if grammar ought to be taught at any time, it must be to one 
that can speak the language already; how else can he be taught the 
grammar of it ? This at least is evident from the practice of the wise 
and learned nations amongst the antients. They made it a part of 
education to cultivate their own, not foreign tongues. The Greeks 
counted all other nations barbarous, and had a contempt for their 
languages. And tho' the Gree\ learning grew in credit amongst the 
Romans, towards the end of their commonwealth, yet it was the 
Roman tongue that was made the study of their youth: their own 
language they were to make use of, and therefore it was their own 
language they were instructed and exercised in. 

But, more particularly to determine the proper season for gram- 
mar, I do not see how it can reasonably be made any one's study, 
but as an introduction to rhetorick; when it is thought time to put 
any one upon the care of polishing his tongue, and of speaking better 
than the illiterate, then is the time for him to be instructed in the rules 
of grammar, and not before. For grammar being to teach men not 
to speak, but to speak correctly and according to the exact rules of 
the tongue, which is one part of elegancy, there is little use of the 
one to him that has no need of the other; where rhetorick is not 
necessary, grammar may be spared. I know not why any one should 
waste his time, and beat his head about the Latin grammar, who 
does not intend to be a critick, or make speeches and write dis- 
patches in it. When any one finds in himself a necessity or disposi- 
tion to study any foreign language to the bottom, and to be nicely 
exact in the knowledge of it, it will be time enough to take a gram- 
matical survey of it. If his use of it be only to understand some books 
writ in it, without a critical knowledge of the tongue itself, reading 
alone, as I have said, will attain this end, without charging the mind 
with the multiplied rules and intricacies of grammar. 

169. For the exercise of his writing, let him sometimes translate 
Latin into English: but the learning of Latin being nothing but the 
learning of words, a very unpleasant business both to young and old, 
join as much other real knowledge with it as you can, beginning 



THEMES 147 

still with that which lies most obvious to the senses; such as is the 
knowledge of minerals, plants and animals, and particularly timber 
and fruit-trees, their parts, and ways of propagation, wherein a great 
deal may be taught a child which will not be useless to the man : but 
more especially geography, astronomy, and anatomy. But whatever 
you are teaching him, have a care still that you do not clog him with 
too much at once; or make anything his business but downright 
virtue, or reprove him for any thing but vice, or some apparent 
tendency to it. 

170. But if after all his fate be to go to school to get the Latin 
tongue, 'twill be in vain to talk to you concerning the method I think 
best to be observ'd in schools; you must submit to that you find there, 
not expect to have it changed for your son; but yet by all means ob- 
tain, if you can, that he be not employed in making Latin themes and 
declamations, and least of all, verses of any kind. You may insist 
on it, if it will do any good, that you have no design to make him 
either a Latin orator or poet, but barely would have him under- 
stand perfectly a Latin author; and that you observe, those who teach 
any of the modern languages, and that with success, never amuse 
their scholars to make speeches or verses either in French or Italian, 
their business being language barely, and not invention. 

171. But to tell you a little more fully why I would not have 
him exercised in making of themes and verses, i. As to themes, they 
have, I confess, the pretence of something useful, which is to teach 
people to speak handsomely and well on any subject; which, if it 
could be attained this way, I own would be a great advantage, there 
being nothing more becoming a gentleman, nor more useful in all the 
occurrences of life, than to be able, on any occasion, to speak well and 
to the purpose. But this I say, that the making of themes, as is usual 
at schools, helps not one jot towards it: for do but consider what it is, 
in making a theme, that a young lad is employed about; it is to make 
a speech on some Latin saying; as Omnia vincit amor; or Non licet 
in Bello bis peccare, Cfc. And here the poor lad, who wants knowl- 
edge of those things he is to speak of, which is to be had only from 
time and observation, must set his invention on the rack, to say 
something where he knows nothing; which is a sort of Egyptian 
tyranny, to bid them make bricks who have not yet any of the mate- 



148 JOHN LOCKE 

rials. And therefore it is usual in such cases for the poor children 
to go to those of higher forms with this petition, Pray give me a little 
sense; which, whether it be more reasonable or more ridiculous, it is 
not easy to determine. Before a man can be in any capacity to speak 
on any subject, 'tis necessary he be acquainted with it; or else it is as 
foolish to set him to discourse of it, as to set a blind man to talk of 
colours, or a deaf man of musick. And would you not think him a 
little crack'd, who would require another to make an argument on 
a moot point, who understands nothing of our laws ? And what, I 
pray, do school-boys understand concerning those matters which 
are used to be proposed to them in their themes as subjects to dis- 
course on, to whet and exercise their fancies? 

172. In the next place, consider the language that their themes 
are made in : 'tis Latin, a language foreign in their country, and long 
since dead every where: a language which your son, 'tis a thousand 
to one, shall never have an occasion once to make a speech in as long 
as he lives after he comes to be a man; and a language wherein the 
manner of expressing one's self is so far different from ours, that to 
be perfect in that would very little improve the purity and facility 
of his English stile. Besides that, there is now so little room or use 
for set speeches in our own language in any part of our English 
business, that I can see no pretence for this sort of exercise in our 
schools, unless it can be supposed, that the making of set Latin 
speeches should be the way to teach men to speak well in English 
extempore. The way to that, I should think rather to be this: that 
there should be propos'd to young gentlemen rational and useful 
questions, suited to their age and capacities, and on subjects not 
wholly unknown to them nor out of their way : such as these, when 
they are ripe for exercises of this nature, they should extempore, or 
after a little meditation upon the spot, speak to, without penning of 
any thing: for I ask, if we will examine the effects of this way of 
learning to speak well, who speak best in any business, when occa- 
sion calls them to it upon any debate, either those who have accus- 
tomed themselves to compose and write down beforehand what they 
would say; or those, who thinking only of the matter, to under- 
stand that as well as they can, use themselves only to speak extem- 
pore? And he that shall judge by this, will be little apt to think, that 



VERSES 149 

the accustoming him to studied speeches and set compositions, is the 
way to fit a young gentleman for business. 

173. But perhaps we shall be told, 'tis to improve and perfect 
them in the Latin tongue. 'Tis true, that is their proper business at 
school; but the making of themes is not the way to it: that perplexes 
their brains about invention of things to be said, not about the sig- 
nification of words to be learn'd; and when they are making a 
theme, tis thoughts they search and sweat for, and not language. 
But the learning and mastery of a tongue being uneasy and un- 
pleasant enough in itself, should not be cumbred with any other 
difficulties, as is done in this way of proceeding. In fine, if boys' in- 
vention be to be quicken'd by such exercise, let them make themes in 
English, where they have facility and a command of words, and will 
better see what kind of thoughts they have, when put into their own 
language. And if the Latin tongue be to be learned, let it be done 
the easiest way, without toiling and disgusting the mind by so uneasy 
an employment as that of making speeches joined to it. 

174. If these may be any reasons against children's making Latin 
themes at school, I have much more to say, and of more weight, 
against their making verses; verses of any sort : for if he has no genius 
to poetry, 'tis the most unreasonable thing in the world to torment 
a child and waste his time about that which can never succeed; and 
if he have a poetick vein, 'tis to me the strangest thing in the world 
that the father should desire or suffer it to be cherished or improved. 
Methinks the parents should labour to have it stifled and suppressed 
as much as may be; and I know not what reason a father can have 
to wish his son a poet, who does not desire to have him bid defiance 
to all other callings and business; which is not yet the worst of the 
case; for if he proves a successful rhymer, and gets once the reputa- 
tion of a wit, I desire it may be considered what company and places 
he is like to spend his time in, nay, and estate too: for it is very 
seldom seen, that any one discovers mines of gold or silver in Par- 
nassus. 'Tis a pleasant air, but a barren soil; and there are very few 
instances of those who have added to their patrimony by any thing 
they have reaped from thence. Poetry and gaming, which usually 
go together, are alike in this too, that they seldom bring any advantage 
but to those who have nothing else to live on. Men of estates almost 



150 JOHN LOCKE 

constantly go away losers; and 'tis well if they escape at a cheaper 
rate than their whole estates, or the greatest part of them. If there- 
fore you would not have your son the fiddle to every jovial com- 
pany, without whom the sparks could not relish their wine nor know 
how to pass an afternoon idly; if you would not have him to waste 
his time and estate to divert others, and contemn the dirty acres left 
him by his ancestors, I do not think you will much care he should be 
a poet, or that his school-master should enter him in versifying. But 
yet, if any one will think poetry a desirable quality in his son, and 
that the study of it would raise his fancy and parts, he must needs 
yet confess, that to that end reading the excellent Gree^ and Roman 
poets is of more use than making bad verses of his own, in a lan- 
guage that is not his own. And he whose design it is to excel in 
English poetry, would not, I guess, think the way to it were to make 
his first essays in Latin verses. 

175. Another thing very ordinary in the vulgar method of gram- 
mar-schools there is, of which I see no use at all, unless it be to 
baulk young lads in the way to learning languages, which, in my 
opinion, should be made as easy and pleasant as may be; and that 
which was painful in it, as much as possible quite removed. That 
which I mean, and here complain of, is, their being forced to learn 
by heart, great parcels of the authors which are taught them; wherein 
I can discover no advantage at all, especially to the business they are 
upon. Languages are to be learned only by reading and talking, and 
not by scraps of authors got by heart; which when a man's head is 
stuffed with, he has got the just furniture of a pedant, and 'tis the 
ready way to make him one; than which there is nothing less be- 
coming a gentleman. For what can be more ridiculous, than to mix 
the rich and handsome thoughts and sayings of others with a deal 
of poor stuff of his own; which is thereby the more exposed, and has 
no other grace in it, nor will otherwise recommend the speaker, than 
a thread-bare russet coat would, that was set of! with large patches of 
scarlet and glittering brocade. Indeed, where a passage comes in the 
way, whose matter is worth remembrance, and the expression of it 
very close and excellent, (as there are many such in the antient 
authors) it may not be amiss to lodge it in the mind of young schol- 
ars, and with such admirable strokes of those great masters some- 



MEMORITER 

times exercise the memories of school-boys. But their learning of their 
lessons by heart, as they happen to fall out in their books, without 
choice or distinction, I know not what it serves for, but to misspend 
their time and pains, and give them a disgust and aversion to their 
books, wherein they find nothing but useless trouble. 

5 176. I hear it is said, that children should be employ 'd in getting 
things by heart, to exercise and improve their memories. I could wish 
this were said with as much authority of reason, as it is with for- 
wardness of assurance, and that this practice were established upon 
good observation more than old custom: for it is evident, that 
strength of memory is owing to an happy constitution, and not to 
any habitual improvement got by exercise. 'Tis true, what the mind 
is intent upon, and, for fear of letting it slip, often imprints afresh 
on itself by frequent reflection, that it is apt to retain, but still ac- 
cording to its own natural strength of retention. An impression 
made on bees- wax or lead, will not last so long as on brass or steel. 
Indeed, if it be renew'd often, it may last the longer; but every new 
reflecting on it is a new impression; and 'tis from thence one is to 
reckon, if one would know how long the mind retains it. But the 
learning pages of Latin by heart, no more fits the memory for reten- 
tion of any thing else, than the graving of one sentence in lead makes 
it the more capable of retaining firmly any other characters. If such 
a sort of exercise of the memory were able to give it strength, and 
improve our parts, players of all other people must needs have the 
best memories and be the best company. But whether the scraps they 
have got into their heads this way, make them remember other things 
the better; and whether their parts be improved proportionably to 
the pains they have taken in getting by heart others' sayings, expe- 
rience will shew. Memory is so necessary to all parts and conditions 
of life, and so little is to be done without it, that we are not to fear 
it should grow dull and useless for want of exercise, if exercise would 
make it grow stronger. But I fear this faculty of the mind is not 
capable of much help and amendment in general by any exercise or 
endeavour of ours, at least not by that used upon this pretence in 
grammar-schools. And if Xerxes was able to call every common 
soldier by name in his army that consisted of no less than an hundred 
thousand men, I think it may be guessed, he got not this wonderful 



152 JOHN LOCKE 

ability by learning his lessons by heart when he was a boy. This 
method of exercising and improving the memory by toilsome repeti- 
tions without book of what they read, is, I think, little used in the 
education of princes, which if it had that advantage is talked of, 
should be as little neglected in them as in the meanest school-boys: 
princes having as much need of good memories as any men living, 
and have generally an equal share in this faculty with other men; 
though it has never been taken care of this way. What the mind is 
intent upon and careful of, that it remembers best, and for the reason 
above-mentioned: to which, if method and order be joined, all is 
done, I think, that can be, for the help of a weak memory; and he 
that will take any other way to do it, especially that of charging it 
with a train of other peoples' words, which he that learns cares not 
for, will, I guess, scarce find the profit answer half the time and 
pains employ 'd in it. 

I do not mean hereby, that there should be no exercise given to 
children's memories. I think their memories should be employ'd, but 
not in learning by rote whole pages out of books, which, the lesson 
being once said, and that task over, are delivered up again to oblivion 
and neglected for ever. This mends neither the memory nor the 
mind. What they should learn by heart out of authors, I have above 
mentioned: and such wise and useful sentences being once given in 
charge to their memories, they should never be sufrer'd to forget 
again, but be often called to account for them: whereby, besides the 
use those sayings may be to them in their future life, as so many 
good rules and observations, they will be taught to reflect often, 
and bethink themselves what they have to remember, which is the 
only way to make the memory quick and useful. The custom of 
frequent reflection will keep their minds from running adrift, and 
call their thoughts home from useless unattentive roving: and there- 
fore I think it may do well, to give them something every day to 
remember, but something still, that is in itself worth the remember- 
ing, and what you would never have out of mind, whenever you call, 
or they themselves search for it. This will oblige them often to turn 
their thoughts inwards, than which you cannot wish them a better 
intellectual habit. 



LATIN 153 

177. But under whose care soever a child is put to be taught dur- 
ing the tender and flexible years of his life, this is certain, it should 
be one who thinks Latin and language the least part of education; 
one who knowing how much virtue and a well-temper'd soul is to 
be preferred to any sort of learning or language, makes it his chief 
business to form the mind of his scholars, and give that a right dis- 
position; which if once got, though all the rest should be neglected, 
would in due time produce all the rest; and which, if it be not got 
and settled so as to keep out ill and vicious habits, languages and 
sciences and all the other accomplishments of education, will be to 
no purpose but to make the worse or more dangerous man. And 
indeed whatever stir there is made about getting of Latin as the 
great and difficult business, his mother may teach it him herself, if 
she will but spend two or three hours in a day with him, and make 
him read the Evangelists in Latin to her: for she need but buy a 
Latin Testament, and having got some body to mark the last syl- 
lable but one where it is long in words above two syllables, (which 
is enough to regulate her pronunciation, and accenting the words) 
read daily in the Gospels, and then let her avoid understanding 
them in Latin if she can. And when she understands the Evange- 
lists in Latin, let her, in the same manner, read JEsop's Fables, and 
so proceed on to Eutropius, Justin, and other such books. I do not 
mention this, as an imagination of what I fancy may do, but as of a 
thing I have known done, and the Latin tongue with ease got this 
way. 

But, to return to what I was saying: he that takes on him the 
charge of bringing up young men, especially young gentlemen, 
should have something more in him than Latin, more than even a 
knowledge in the liberal sciences: he should be a person of eminent 
virtue and prudence, and with good sense, have good humour, and 
the skill to carry himself with gravity, ease and kindness, in a con- 
stant conversation with his pupils. But of this I have spoken at 
large in another place. 

178. At the same time that he is learning French and Latin, a 
child, as has been said, may also be enter'd in Arithmetic^, Geog- 
raphy, Chronology, History and Geometry too. For if these be 



154 JOHN LOCKE 

taught him in French or Latin, when he begins once to understand 
either of these tongues, he will get a knowledge in these sciences, 
and the language to boot. 

Geography I think should be begun with: for the learning of the 
figure of the globe, the situation and boundaries of the four parts of 
the world, and that of particular kingdoms and countries, being only 
an exercise of the eyes and memory, a child with pleasure will learn 
and retain them. And this is so certain, that I now live in the house 
with a child whom his mother has so well instructed this way in 
geography, that he knew the limits of the four parts of the world, 
could readily point, being ask'd, to any country upon the globe, or 
any county in the map of England; knew all the great rivers, prom- 
ontories, straits and bays in the world, and could find the longitude 
and latitude of any place, before he was six years old. These things, 
that he will thus learn by sight, and have by rote in his memory, are 
not all, I confess, that he is to learn upon the globes. But yet it is a 
good step and preparation to it, and will make the remainder much 
easier, when his judgment is grown ripe enough for it: besides that, 
it gets so much time now; and by the pleasure of knowing things, 
leads him on insensibly to the gaining of languages. 

179. When he has the natural parts of the globe well fix'd in his 
memory, it may then be time to begin arithmetic^. By the natural 
parts of the globe, I mean the several positions of the parts of the 
earth and sea, under different names and distinctions of countries, 
not coming yet to those artificial and imaginary lines which have 
been invented, and are only suppos'd for the better improvement of 
that science. 

1 80. Arithmetic]^ is the easiest, and consequently the first sort 
of abstract reasoning, which the mind commonly bears or accustoms 
itself to : and is of so general use in all parts of life and business, that 
scarce any thing is to be done without it. This is certain, a man can- 
not have too much of it, nor too perfectly: he should therefore be- 
gin to be exercis'd in counting, as soon, and as far, as he is capable of 
it; and do something in it every day, till he is master of the art of 
numbers*. When he understands addition and subtraction, he then 
may be advanced farther in geography, after he is acquainted with 
the pole? zones, parallel circles, and meridians, be taught longitude 



ARITHMETICK 155 

and latitude, and by them be made to understand the use of maps, 
and by the numbers placed on their sides, to know the respective 
situation of countries, and how to find them out on the terrestrial 
globe. Which when he can readily do, he may then be entered in the 
celestial; and there going over all the circles again, with a more par- 
ticular observation of the Ecliptick, or Zodiack, to fix them all very 
clearly and distinctly in his mind, he may be taught the figure and 
position of the several constellations, which may be shewed him 
first upon the globe, and then in the heavens. 

When that is done, and he knows pretty well the constellations of 
this our hemisphere, it may be time to give him some notions of this 
our planetary world; and to that purpose, it may not be amiss to 
make him a draught of the Copernican system, and therein explain 
to him the situation of the planets, their respective distances from the 
sun, the centre of their revolutions. This will prepare him to under- 
stand the motion and theory of the planets, the most easy and natural 
way. For since astronomers no longer doubt of the motion of the 
planets about the sun, it is fit he should proceed upon that hypoth- 
esis, which is not only the simplest and least perplexed for a learner, 
but also the likeliest to be true in itself. But in this, as in all other 
parts of instruction, great care must be taken with children, to begin 
with that which is plain and simple, and to teach them as little as can 
be at once, and settle that well in their heads before you proceed to 
the next, or any thing new in that science. Give them first one simple 
idea, and see that they take it right, and perfectly comprehend it be- 
fore you go any farther, and then add some other simple idea which 
lies next in your way to what you aim at; and so proceeding by gentle 
and insensible steps, children without confusion and amazement will 
have their understandings opened and their thoughts extended 
farther than could have been expected. And when any one has 
learn'd any thing himself, there is no such way to fix it in his mem- 
ory, and to encourage him to go on, as to set him to teach it others. 

181. When he has once got such an acquaintance with the globes, 
as is above mentioned, he may be fit to be tried in a little geometry; 
wherein I think the first six books of Euclid enough for him to be 
taught. For I am in some doubt, whether more to a man of business 
be necessary or useful. At least, if he have a genius and inclination 



156 JOHN LOCKE 

to it, being enter'd so far by his tutor, he will be able to go on of 
himself without a teacher. 

The globes therefore must be studied, and that diligently; and I 
think may be begun betimes, if the tutor will be but careful to dis- 
tinguish what the child is capable of knowing, and what not; for 
which this may be a rule that perhaps will go a pretty way, viz. 
that children may be taught anything that falls under their senses, 
especially their sight, as far as their memories only are exercised: 
and thus a child very young may learn, which is the ^Equator, 
which the Meridian, &c. which Europe, and which England, upon 
the globes, as soon almost as he knows the rooms of the house he lives 
in, if care be taken not to teach him too much at once, nor to set him 
upon a new part, till that which he is upon be perfectly learned and 
fixed in his memory. 

182. With geography, chronology ought to go hand in hand. I 
mean the general part of it, so that he may have in his mind a view of 
the whole current of time, and the several considerable epochs that 
are made use of in history. Without these two, history, which is the 
great mistress of prudence and civil knowledge, and ought to be the 
proper study of a gentleman, or man of business in the world; with- 
out geography and chronology, I say, history will be very ill retain'd, 
and very little useful; but be only a jumble of matters of fact, con- 
fusedly heaped together without order or instruction. 'Tis by these 
two that the actions of mankind are ranked into their proper places 
of time and countries, under which circumstances they are not only 
much easier kept in the memory, but in that natural order, are only 
capable to afford those observations which make a man the better 
and the abler for reading them. 

183. When I speak of chronology as a science he should be per- 
fect in, I do not mean the little controversies that are in it. These are 
endless, and most of them of so little importance to a gentleman, as 
not to deserve to be enquir'd into, were they capable of an easy de- 
cision. And therefore all that learned noise and dust of the chronol- 
ogist is wholly to be avoided. The most useful book I have seen in 
that part of learning, is a small treatise of Strauchius, which is printed 
in twelves, under the title of Breviarium Chronologicum, out of 
which may be selected all that is necessary to be taught a young 



LAW 157 

gentleman concerning chronology; for all that is in that treatise a 
learner need not be cumbred with. He has in him the most remark- 
able or useful epochs reduced all to that of the Julian Period, which 
is the easiest and plainest and surest method that can be made use 
of in chronology. To this treatise of Strauchitts, Helvicus's tables 
may be added, as a book to be turned to on all occasions. 

184. As nothing teaches, so nothing delights more than history. 
The first of these recommends it to the study of grown men, the lat- 
ter makes me think it the fittest for a young lad, who as soon as he is 
instructed in chronology, and acquainted with the several epochs 
in use in this part of the world, and can reduce them to the Julian 
Period, should then have some Latin history put into his hand. The 
choice should be directed by the easiness of the stile; for wherever 
he begins, chronology will keep it from confusion; and the pleasant- 
ness of the subject inviting him to read, the language will insensibly 
be got without that terrible vexation and uneasiness which children 
suffer where they are put into books beyond their capacity; such as 
are the Roman orators and poets, only to learn the Roman language. 
When he has by reading master'd the easier, such perhaps as Justin, 
Eutropius, Quintius Curtius, &c. the next degree to these will give 
him no great trouble : and thus by a gradual progress from the plain- 
est and easiest historians, he may at last come to read the most diffi- 
cult and sublime of the Latin authors, such as are Tully, Virgil, and 
Horace. 

185. The knowledge of virtue, all along from the beginning, in 
all the instances he is capable of, being taught him more by practice 
than rules; and the love of reputation, instead of satisfying his appe- 
tite, being made habitual in him, I know not whether he should read 
any other discourses of morality but what he finds in the Bible; or 
have any system of ethic^s put into his hand till he can read Tully 's 
Offices not as a school-boy to learn Latin, but as one that would be 
informed in the principles and precepts of virtue for the conduct of 
his life. 

1 86. When he has pretty well digested Tully s Offices, and 
added to it, Puffendorf de Officio Hominis & Civis, it may be sea- 
sonable to set him upon Grotius de Jure Belli & Pads, or, which 
perhaps is the better of the two, Puffendorf de Jure naturali O 3 Gen- 



158 JOHN LOCKE 

tium; wherein he will be instructed in the natural rights of men, and 
the original and foundations of society, and the duties resulting from 
thence. This general part of civil-law and history, are studies which 
a gentleman should not barely touch at, but constantly dwell upon, 
and never have done with. A virtuous and well-behaved young man, 
that is well-versed in the general part of the civil-law (which con- 
cerns not the chicane of private cases, but the affairs and intercourse 
of civilized nations in general, grounded upon principles of reason) 
understands Latin well, and can write a good hand, one may turn 
loose into the world with great assurance that he will find em- 
ployment and esteem every where. 

187. It would be strange to suppose an English gentleman should 
be ignorant of the law of his country. This, whatever station he is in, 
is so requisite, that from a Justice of the Peace to a Minister of State 
I know no place he can well fill without it. I do not mean the 
chicane or wrangling and captious part of the law: a gentleman, 
whose business is to seek the true measures of right and wrong, and 
not the arts how to avoid doing the one, and secure himself in doing 
the other, ought to be as far from such a study of the law, as he is 
concerned diligently to apply himself to that wherein he may be 
serviceable to his country. And to that purpose, I think the right 
way for a gentleman to study our law, which he does not design for 
his calling, is to take a view of our English constitution and govern- 
ment in the antient books of the common-law, and some more mod- 
ern writers, who out of them have given an account of this govern- 
ment. And having got a true idea of that, then to read our history, 
and with it join in every king's reign the laws then made. This will 
give an insight into the reason of our statutes, and shew the true 
ground upon which they came to be made, and what weight they 
ought to have. 

1 88. Rhetoric^ and logicl^ being the arts that in the ordinary 
method usually follow immediately after grammar, it may perhaps 
be wondered that I have said so little of them. The reason is, because 
of the little advantage young people receive by them: for I have sel- 
dom or never observed any one to get the skill of reasoning well, or 
speaking handsomely, by studying those rules which pretend to reach 
it: and therefore I would have a young gentleman take a view of 



STYLE 159 

them in the shortest systems could be found, without dwelling long 
on the contemplation and study of those formalities. Right reason- 
ing is founded on something else than the predicaments and predi- 
cables, and does not consist in talking in mode and -figure it self. But 
'tis beside my present business to enlarge upon this speculation. To 
come therefore to what we have in hand; if you would have your 
son reason well, let him read Chillingworth; and if you would have 
him speak well, let him be conversant in Tutty, to give him the true 
idea of eloquence; and let him read those things that are well writ 
in English, to perfect his style in the purity of our language. 

189. If the use and end of right reasoning be to have right no- 
tions and a right judgment of things, to distinguish betwixt truth 
and falsehood, right and wrong, and to act accordingly ; be sure not to 
let your son be bred up in the art and formality of disputing, either 
practising it himself, or admiring it in others; unless instead of an 
able man, you desire to have him an insignificant wrangler, opini- 
ator in discourse, and priding himself in contradicting others; or, 
which is worse, questioning every thing, and thinking there is no 
such thing as truth to be sought, but only victory, in disputing. There 
cannot be any thing so disingenuous, so misbecoming a gentleman or 
any one who pretends to be a rational creature, as not to yield to plain 
reason and the conviction of clear arguments. Is there any thing 
more consistent with civil conversation, and the end of all debate, 
than not to take an answer, though never so full and satisfactory, 
but still to go on with the dispute as long as equivocal sounds can 
furnish (a medius terminus) a term to wrangle with on the one 
side, or a distinction on the other; whether pertinent or impertinent, 
sense or nonsense, agreeing with or contrary to what he had said be- 
fore, it matters not. For this, in short, is the way and perfection of 
logical disputes, that the opponent never takes any answer, nor the 
respondent ever yields to any argument. This neither of them must 
do, whatever becomes of truth or knowledge, unless he will pass for 
a poor baffled wretch, and lie under the disgrace of not being able 
to maintain whatever he has once affirm'd, which is the great aim 
and glory in disputing. Truth is to be found and supported by a ma- 
ture and due consideration of things themselves, and not by artificial 
terms and ways of arguing: these lead not men so much into the 



l6o JOHN LOCKE 

discovery of truth, as into a captious and fallacious use of doubtful 
words, which is the most useless and most offensive way of talking, 
and such as least suits a gentleman or a lover of truth of any thing 
in the world. 

There can scarce be a greater defect in a gentleman than not to ex- 
press himself well either in writing or speaking. But yet I think I may 
ask my reader, whether he doth not know a great many, who live 
upon their estates, and so with the name should have the qualities 
of gentlemen, who cannot so much as tell a story as they should, 
much less speak clearly and persuasively in any business. This I 
think not to be so much their fault, as the fault of their education; 
for I must, without partiality, do my countrymen this right, that where 
they apply themselves, I see none of their neighbours outgo them. 
They have been taught rhetoric^, but yet never taught how to ex- 
press themselves handsomely with their tongues or pens in the lan- 
guage they are always to use; as if the names of the figures that 
embellish'd the discourses of those who understood the art of speak- 
ing, were the very art and skill of speaking well. This, as all other 
things of practice, is to be learn'd not by a few or a great many rules 
given, but by exercise and application according to good rules, or 
rather patterns, till habits are got, and a facility of doing it well. 

Agreeable hereunto, perhaps it might not be amiss to make chil- 
dren, as soon as they are capable of it, often to tell a story of any 
thing they know; and to correct at first the most remarkable fault 
they are guilty of in their way of putting it together. When that 
fault is cured, then to shew them the next, and so on, till one after 
another, all, at least the gross ones, are mended. When they can tell 
tales pretty well, then it may be the time to make them write them. 
The Fables of JEsop, the only book almost that I know fit for chil- 
dren, may afford them matter for this exercise of writing English, 
as well as for reading and translating, to enter them in the Latin 
tongue. When they have got past the faults of grammar, and can 
join in a continued coherent discourse the several parts of a story, 
without bald and unhandsome forms of transition (as is usual) often 
repeated, he that desires to perfect them yet farther in this, which is 
the first step to speaking well and needs no invention, may have re- 
course to Tully, and by putting in practice those rules which that 



LETTERS l6l 

master of eloquence gives in his first book de inventione, 20, make 
them know wherein the skill and graces of an handsome narrative, 
according to the several subjects and designs of it, lie. Of each of 
which rules fit examples may be found out, and therein they may be 
shewn how others have practised them. The antient classick authors 
afford plenty of such examples, which they should be made not only 
to translate, but have set before them as patterns for their daily imi- 
tation. 

When they understand how to write English with due connexion, 
propriety and order, and are pretty well masters of a tolerable narra- 
tive style, they may be advanced to writing of letters; wherein they 
should not be put upon any strains of wit or compliment, but taught 
to express their own plain easy sense, without any incoherence, con- 
fusion or roughness. And when they are perfect in this, they may, 
to raise their thoughts, have set before them the examples of Voitures, 
for the entertainment of their friends at a distance, with letters of 
compliment, mirth, raillery or diversion; and Tully's Epistles, as the 
best pattern whether for business or conversation. The writing of 
letters has so much to do in all the occurrences of human life, that 
no gentleman can avoid shewing himself in this kind of writing. 
Occasions will daily force him to make this use of his pen, which, be- 
sides the consequences that, in his affairs, his well or ill managing of 
it often draws after it, always lays him open to a severer examination 
of his breeding, sense, and abilities, than oral discourses; whose tran- 
sient faults dying for the most part with the sound that gives them 
life, and so not subject to a strict review, more easily escape observa- 
tion and censure. 

Had the methods of education been directed to their right end, 
one would have thought this so necessary a part could not have been 
neglected whilst themes and verses in Latin, of no use at all, were 
so constantly every where pressed, to the racking of children's in- 
ventions beyond their strength and hindering their chearful progress 
in learning the tongues by unnatural difficulties. But custom has 
so ordain'd it, and who dares disobey ? And would it not be very un- 
reasonable to require of a learned country school-master (who has 
all the tropes and figures in Farnaby's Rhetoric^ at his fingers' 
ends) to teach his scholar to express himself handsomely in English, 



1 62 JOHN LOCKE 

when it appears to be so little his business or thought, that the boy's 
mother (despised, 'tis like, as illiterate for not having read a system 
of logic\ and rhetoric^) outdoes him in it? 

To write and speak correctly gives a grace and gains a favourable 
attention to what one has to say : and since 'tis English that an Eng- 
lish gentleman will have constant use of, that is the language he 
should chiefly cultivate, and wherein most care should be taken to 
polish and perfect his style. To speak or write better Latin than 
English, may make a man be talk'd of, but he would find it more 
to his purpose to express himself well in his own tongue, that he uses 
every moment, than to have the vain commendation of others for 
a very insignificant quality. This I find universally neglected, and no 
care taken any where to improve young men in their own language, 
that they may thoroughly understand and be masters of it. If any one 
among us have a facility or purity more than ordinary in his mother 
tongue, it is owing to chance, or his genius, or any thing rather than 
to his education or any care of his teacher. To mind what English 
his pupil speaks or writes, is below the dignity of one bred up 
amongst Greef^ and Latin, though he have but little of them him- 
self. These are the learned languages fit only for learned men to 
meddle with and teach; English is the language of the illiterate vul- 
gar: tho' yet we see the polity of some of our neighbours hath not 
thought it beneath the publick care to promote and reward the im- 
provement of their own language. Polishing and enriching their 
tongue is no small business amongst them; it hath colleges and 
stipends appointed it, and there is raised amongst them a great am- 
bition and emulation of writing correctly : and we see what they are 
come to by it, and how far they have spread one of the worst lan- 
guages possibly in this part of the world, if we look upon it as it 
was in some few reigns backwards, whatever it be now. The great 
men among the Romans were daily exercising themselves in their 
own language; and we find yet upon record the names of orators, 
who taught some of their emperors Latin, though it were their 
mother tongue. 

'Tis plain the Greeks were yet more nice in theirs. All other 
speech was barbarous to them but their own, and no foreign lan- 
guage appears to have been studied or valued amongst that learned 



NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 163 

and acute people; tho' it be past doubt that they borrowed their 
learning and philosophy from abroad. 

I am not here speaking against Gree\ and Latin; I think they 
ought to be studied, and the Latin at least understood well by every 
gentleman. But whatever foreign languages a young man meddles 
with (and the more he knows the better) that which he should 
critically study, and labour to get a facility, clearness and elegancy 
to express himself in, should be his own; and to this purpose he 
should daily be exercised in it. 

190. Natural philosophy, as a speculative science, I imagine we 
have none, and perhaps I may think I have reason to say we never 
shall be able to make a science of it. The works of nature are con- 
trived by a wisdom, and operate by ways too far surpassing our 
faculties to discover or capacities to conceive, for us ever to be able to 
reduce them into a science. Natural philosophy being the knowl- 
edge of the principles, properties and operations of things as they 
are in themselves, I imagine there are two parts of it, one compre- 
hending spirits, with their nature and qualities, and the other 
bodies. The first of these is usually referred to metaphysical but 
under what title soever the consideration of spirits comes, I think it 
ought to go before the study of matter and body, not as a science 
that can be methodized into a system, and treated of upon prin- 
ciples of knowledge; but as an enlargement of our minds towards 
a truer and fuller comprehension of the intellectual world to which 
we are led both by reason and revelation. And since the clearest and 
largest discoveries we have of other spirits, besides God and our own 
souls, is imparted to us from heaven by revelation, I think the in- 
formation that at least young people should have of them, should 
be taken from that revelation. To this purpose, I conclude, it would 
be well, if there were made a good history of the Bible, for young 
people to read; wherein if every thing that is fit to be put into it, 
were laid down in its due order of time, and several things omitted 
which are suited only to riper age, that confusion which is usually 
produced by promiscuous reading of the Scripture, as it lies now 
bound up in our Bibles, would be avoided. And also this other 
good obtained, that by reading of it constantly, there would be in- 
stilled into the minds of children a notion and belief of spirits, they 



164 JOHN LOCKE 

having so much to do in all the transactions of that history, which 
will be a good preparation to the study of bodies. For without the 
notion and allowance of spirit, our philosophy will be lame and de- 
fective in one main part of it, when it leaves out the contemplation 
of the most excellent and powerful part of the creation. 

191. Of this History of the Bible, I think too it would be well if 
there were a short and plain epitome made, containing the chief 
and most material heads, for children to be conversant in as soon as 
they can read. This, though it will lead them early into some 
notion of spirits, yet it is not contrary to what I said above, that I 
would not have children troubled, whilst young, with notions 
of spirits; whereby my meaning was, that I think it inconvenient 
that their yet tender minds should receive early impressions of 
goblins, spectres, and apparitions, wherewith their maids and those 
about them are apt to fright them into a compliance with their 
orders, which often proves a great inconvenience to them all their 
lives after, by subjecting their minds to frights, fearful apprehen- 
sions, weakness and superstition; which when coming abroad into 
the world and conversation they grow weary and ashamed of, it not 
seldom happens, that to make, as they think, a thorough cure, and 
ease themselves of a load which has sat so heavy on them, they throw 
away the thoughts of all spirits together, and so run into the other, 
but worse, extream. 

192. The reason why I would have this premised to the study 
of bodies, and the Doctrine of the Scriptures well imbibed before 
young men be entered in natural philosophy, is, because matter, 
being a thing that all our senses are constantly conversant with, it 
is so apt to possess the mind, and exclude all other beings but matter, 
that prejudice, grounded on such principles, often leaves no room 
for the admittance of spirits, or the allowing any' such things as im- 
material beings in rerum natura; when yet it is evident that by mere 
matter and motion none of the great phenomena of nature can be 
resolved, to instance but in that common one of gravity, which I 
think impossible to be explained by any natural operation of matter, 
or any other law of motion, but the positive will of a superior being 
so ordering it. And therefore since the deluge cannot be well ex- 
plained without admitting something out of the ordinary course of 



NATURAL PHILOSOPHY 165 

nature, I propose it to be considered whether God's altering the 
centre of gravity in the earth for a time (a thing as intelligible as 
gravity it self, which perhaps a little variation of causes unknown 
to us would produce) will not more easily account for Noah's flood 
than any hypothesis yet made use of to solve it. I hear the great 
objection to this, is, that it would produce but a partial deluge. But 
the alteration of the centre of gravity once allowed, 'tis no hard 
matter to conceive that the divine power might make the centre of 
gravity, plac'd at a due distance from the centre of the earth, move 
round it in a convenient space of time, whereby the flood would 
become universal, and, as I think, answer all the phenomena of the 
deluge as delivered by Moses, at an easier rate than those many hard 
suppositions that are made use of to explain it. But this is not a place 
for that argument, which is here only mentioned by the bye, to shew 
the necessity of having recourse to something beyond bare matter 
and its motion in the explication of nature; to which the notions of 
spirits and their power, as delivered in the Bible, where so much is 
attributed to their operation, may be a fit preparative, reserving 
to a fitter opportunity a fuller explication of this hypothesis, and the 
application of it to all the parts of the deluge, and any difficulties can 
be supposed in the history of the flood, as recorded in the scripture. 
193. But to return to the study of natural philosophy. Tho' the 
world be full of systems of it, yet I cannot say, I know any one which 
can be taught a young man as a science wherein he may be sure to 
find truth and certainty, which is what all sciences give an expecta- 
tion of. I do not hence conclude, that none of them are to be read. 
It is necessary for a gentleman in this learned age to look into some 
of them to fit himself for conversation: but whether that of Des 
Cartes be put into his hands, as that which is most in fashion, or it 
be thought fit to give him a short view of that and several others also, 
I think the systems of natural philosophy that have obtained in this 
part of the world, are to be read more to know the hypotheses, and 
to understand the terms and ways of talking of the several sects, than 
with hopes to gain thereby a comprehensive, scientifical and satis- 
factory knowledge of the works of nature. Only this may be said, 
that the modern Corpuscularians talk in most things more intelligibly 
than the Peripatetic^, who possessed the schools immediately before 



1 66 JOHN LOCKE 

them. He that would look further back, and acquaint himself with 
the several opinions of the antients, may consult Dr. Cudworttis 
Intellectual System, wherein that very learned author hath with 
such accurateness and judgment collected and explained the opin- 
ions of the Gree\ philosophers, that what principles they built on, 
and what were the chief hypotheses that divided them, is better to 
be seen in him than any where else that I know. But I would not 
deter any one from the study of nature because all the knowledge 
we have or possibly can have of it cannot be brought into a science. 
There are very many things in it that are convenient and necessary 
to be known to a gentleman; and a great many other that will 
abundantly reward the pains of the curious with delight and ad- 
vantage. But these, I think, are rather to be found amongst such 
writers as have employed themselves in making rational experi- 
ments and observations than in starting barely speculative systems. 
Such writings therefore, as many of Mr. Boyle's are, with others that 
have writ of husbandry, planting, gardening, and the like, may be 
fit for a gentleman, when he has a little acquainted himself with 
some of the systems of the natural philosophy in fashion. 

194. Though the systems of physict(s that I have met with, 
afford little encouragement to look for certainty or science in any 
treatise which shall pretend to give us a body of natural philosophy 
from the first principles of bodies in general, yet the incomparable 
Mr. Newton has shewn, how far mathematicks applied to some parts 
of nature may, upon principles that matter of fact justify, carry 
us in the knowledge of some, as I may so call them, particular 
provinces of the incomprehensible universe. And if others could 
give us so good and clear an account of other parts of nature, as 
he has of this our planetary world, and the most considerable 
phenomena observable in it, in his admirable book, Philosophies 
naturalis Principia Mathematica, we might in time hope to be 
furnished with more true and certain knowledge in several parts 
of this stupendous machine, than hitherto we could have expected. 
And though there are very few that have mathematicks enough 
to understand his demonstrations, yet the most accurate mathe- 
maticians who have examin'd them allowing them to be such, 
his book will deserve to be read, and give no small light and pleasure 






GREEK 167 

to those, who, willing to understand the motions, properties, and 
operations o the great masses of matter, in this our solar system, will 
but carefully mind his conclusions, which may be depended on as 
propositions well proved. 

195. This is, in short, what I have thought concerning a young 
gentleman's studies; wherein it will possibly be wonder'd that I 
should omit Gree\, since amongst the Grecians is to be found the 
original as it were, and foundation of all that learning which we 
have in this part of the world. I grant it so; and will add, that no 
man can pass for a scholar that is ignorant of the Gree\ tongue. 
But I am not here considering the education of a profess'd scholar, 
but of a gentleman, to whom 'Latin and French, as the world now 
goes, is by every one acknowledg'd to be necessary. When he comes 
to be a man, if he has a mind to carry his studies farther, and look 
into the Greet^ learning, he will then easily get that tongue himself : 
and if he has not that inclination, his learning of it under a tutor will 
be but lost labour, and much of his time and pains spent in that 
which will be neglected and thrown away as soon as he is at liberty. 
For how many are there of an hundred, even amongst scholars 
themselves, who retain the Gree\ they carried from school; or ever 
improve it to a familiar reading and perfect understanding of Gree{ 
authors? 

To conclude this part, which concerns a young gentleman's studies, 
his tutor should remember, that his business is not so much to teach 
him all that is knowable, as to raise in him a love and esteem of 
knowledge; and to put him in the right way of knowing and im- 
proving himself when he has a mind to it. 

The thoughts of a judicious author on the subject of languages, I 
shall here give the reader, as near as I can, in his own way of ex- 
pressing them: he says, "One can scarce burden children too much 
with the knowledge of languages. They are useful to men of all 
conditions, and they equally open them the entrance, either to the 
most profound, or the more easy and entertaining parts of learning. 
If this irksome study be put oflf to a little more advanced age, young 
men either have not resolution enough to apply it out of choice or 
steadiness to carry it on. And if any one has the gift of perseverance, 
it is not without the inconvenience of spending that time upon Ian- 



1 68 JOHN LOCKE 

guages, which is destined to other uses: and he confines to the 
study of words that age of his life that is above it, and requires 
things; at least it is the losing the best and beautifullest season of 
one's life. This large foundation of languages cannot be well laid 
but when every thing makes an easy and deep impression on the 
mind; when the memory is fresh, ready, and tenacious; when the 
head and heart are as yet free from cares, passions, and designs; 
and those on whom the child depends have authority enough to keep 
him close to a long continued application. I am persuaded that the 
small number of truly learned, and the multitude of superficial pre- 
tenders, is owing to the neglect of this." 

I think every body will agree with this observing gentleman, that 
languages are the proper study of our first years. But 'tis to be con- 
sider'd by the parents and tutors, what tongues 'tis fit the child should 
learn. For it must be confessed, that it is fruitless pains and loss of 
time, to learn a language which in the course of life that he is de- 
signed to, he is never like to make use of, or which one may guess 
by his temper he will wholly neglect and lose again, as soon as an 
approach to manhood, setting him free from a governor, shall put 
him into the hands of his own inclination, which is not likely to 
allot any of his time to the cultivating the learned tongues, or dis- 
pose him to mind any other language but what daily use or some 
particular necessity shall force upon him. 

But yet for the sake of those who are designed to be scholars, I 
will add what the same author subjoins to make good his foregoing 
remark. It will deserve to be considered by all who desire to be truly 
learned, and therefore may be a fit rule for tutors to inculcate and 
leave with their pupils to guide their future studies. 

"The study, says he, of the original text can never be sufficiently 
recommended. 'Tis the shortest, surest, and most agreeable way to 
all sorts of learning. Draw from the spring-head, and take not things 
at second hand. Let the writings of the great masters be never laid 
aside, dwell upon them, settle them in your mind, and cite them 
upon occasion; make it your business throughly to understand 
them in their full extent and all their circumstances: acquaint your- 
self fully with the principles of original authors; bring them to a 



METHOD 169 

consistency, and then do you yourself make your deductions. In this 
state were the first commentators, and do not you rest till you bring 
yourself to the same. Content not yourself with those borrowed 
lights, nor guide yourself by their views but where your own fails 
you and leaves you in the dark. Their explications are not your's, and 
will give you the slip. On the contrary, your own observations are 
the product of your own mind, where they will abide and be ready 
at hand upon all occasions in converse, consultation, and dispute. 
Lose not the pleasure it is to see that you are not stopp'd in your 
reading but by difficulties that are invincible; where the com- 
mentators and scholiasts themselves are at a stand and have nothing 
to say. Those copious expositors of other places, who with a vain 
and pompous overflow of learning poured out on passages plain and 
easy in themselves, are very free of their words and pains, where 
there is no need. Convince yourself fully by this ordering your 
studies, that 'tis nothing but men's laziness which hath encouraged 
pedantry to cram rather than enrich libraries, and to bury good 
authors under heaps of notes and commentaries, and you will per- 
ceive that sloth herein hath acted against itself and its own interest 
by multiplying reading and enquiries, and encreasing the pains it 
endeavoured to avoid." 

This, tho' it may seem to concern none but direct scholars, is of so 
great moment for the right ordering of their education and studies, 
that I hope I shall not be blamed for inserting of it here; especially 
if it be considered, that it may be of use to gentlemen too, when at 
any time they have a mind to go deeper than the surface, and get to 
themselves a solid, satisfactory, and masterly insight in any part of 
learning. 

Order and constancy are said to make the great difference between 
one man and another: this I am sure, nothing so much clears a 
learner's way, helps him so much on in it, and makes him go so easy 
and so far in any enquiry, as a good method. His governor should 
take pains to make him sensible of this, accustom him to order, and 
teach him method in all the applications of his thoughts; shew him 
wherein it lies, and the advantages of it; acquaint him with the sev- 
eral sorts of it, either from general to particulars, or from par- 



I7O JOHN LOCKE 

ticulars to what is more general; exercise him in both of them, and 
make him see in what cases each different method is most proper, 
and to what ends it best serves. 

In history the order of time should govern, in philosophical en- 
quiries that of nature, which in all progression is to go from the 
place one is then in, to that which joins and lies next to it; and so it 
is in the mind, from the knowledge it stands possessed of already, 
to that which lies next, and is coherent to it, and so on to what it 
aims at, by the simplest and most uncompounded parts it can divide 
the matter into. To this purpose, it will be of great use to his pupil 
to accustom him to distinguish well, that is, to have distinct notions, 
whereever the mind can find any real difference; but as carefully to 
avoid distinctions in terms, where he has not distinct and different 
clear ideas. 

196. Besides what is to be had from study and books, there are 
other accomplishments necessary for a gentleman, to be got by 
exercise, and to which time is to be allowed, and for which masters 
must be had. 

Dancing being that which gives graceful motions all the life, and 
above all things manliness, and a becoming confidence to young 
children, I think it cannot be learned too early, after they are once 
of an age and strength capable of it. But you must be sure to have 
a good master, that knows, and can teach, what is graceful and be- 
coming, and what gives a freedom and easiness to all the motions of 
the body. One that teaches not this, is worse than none at all: 
natural unfashionableness being much better than apish affected 
postures; and I think it much more passable, to put off the hat and 
make a leg like an honest country gentleman than like an ill- 
fashioned dancing-master. For as for the jigging part, and the 
figures of dances, I count that little or nothing, farther than as it 
tends to perfect graceful carriage. 

197. Musicf( is thought to have some affinity with dancing, and 
a good hand upon some instruments is by many people mightily 
valued. But it wastes so much of a young man's time to gain but a 
moderate skill in it; and engages often in such odd company, that 
many think it much better spared: and I have amongst men of parts 
and business so seldom heard any one commended or esteemed for 



FENCING 171 

having an excellency in music 1^, that amongst all those things that 
ever came into the list of accomplishments, I think I may give it the 
last place. Our short lives will not serve us for the attainment of all 
things; nor can our minds be always intent on something to be 
learned. The weakness of our constitutions both of mind and body, 
requires that we should be often unbent: and he that will make a 
good use of any part of his life, must allow a large portion of it to 
recreation. At least, this must not be denied to young people; unless 
whilst you with too much haste make them old, you have the dis- 
pleasure to set them in their graves or a second childhood sooner 
than you could wish. And therefore, I think, that the time and pains 
allotted to serious improvements, should be employed about things 
of most use and consequence, and that too in the methods the most 
easy and short that could be at any rate obtained: and perhaps, as I 
have above said, it would be none of the least secrets of education, 
to make the exercises of the body and the mind the recreation one to 
another. I doubt not but that something might be done in it, by a 
prudent man, that would well consider the temper and inclination of 
his pupil. For he that is wearied either with study or dancing does 
not desire presently to go to sleep, but to do something else which 
may divert and delight him. But this must be always remembered, 
that nothing can come into the account of recreation, that is not 
done with delight. 

198. Fencing and riding the great horse, are looked upon so 
necessary parts of breeding, that it would be thought a great omission 
to neglect them; the latter of the two being for the most part to be 
learned only in great towns, is one of the best exercises for health, 
which is to be had in those places of ease and luxury : and upon that 
account makes a fit part of a young gentleman's employment during 
his abode there. And as far as it conduces to give a man a firm and 
graceful seat on horseback, and to make him able to teach his horse 
to stop and turn quick, and to rest on his hanches, is of use to a 
gentleman both in peace and war. But whether it be of moment 
enough to be made a business of, and deserve to take up more of his 
time than should barely for his health be employed at due intervals 
in some such vigorous exercise, I shall leave to the discretion of par- 
ents and tutors; who will do well to remember, in all the parts of 



172 JOHN LOCKE 

education, that most time and application is to be bestowed on that 
which is like to be of greatest consequence and frequentest use in 
the ordinary course and occurrences of that life the young man is 
designed for. 

199. As for fencing, it seems to me a good exercise for health, 
but dangerous to the life; the confidence of their skill being apt to 
engage in quarrels those that think they have learned to use their 
swords. This presumption makes them often more touchy than 
needs on point of honour and slight or no provocations. Young 
men, in their warm blood, are forward to think they have in vain 
learned to fence, if they never shew their skill and courage in a duel; 
and they seem to have reason. But how many sad tragedies that 
reason has been the occasion of, the tears of many a mother can 
witness. A man that cannot fence, will be more careful to keep out 
of bullies' and gamesters' company, and will not be half so apt to 
stand upon punctilios, nor to give affronts, or fiercely justify them 
when given, which is that which usually makes the quarrel. And 
when a man is in the field, a moderate skill in fencing rather exposes 
him to the sword of his enemy than secures him from it. And 
certainly a man of courage who cannot fence at all and therefore 
will put all upon one thrust and not stand parrying, has the odds 
against a moderate fencer, especially if he has skill in wrestling. 
And therefore, if any provision be to be made against such accidents, 
and a man be to prepare his son for duels, I had much rather mine 
should be a good wrestler than an ordinary fencer, which is the 
most a gentleman can attain to in it, unless he will be constantly in 
the fencing-school and every day exercising. But since fencing and 
riding the great horse are so generally looked upon as necessary 
qualifications in the breeding of a gentleman, it will be hard wholly 
to deny any one of that rank these marks of distinction. I shall leave 
it therefore to the father to consider, how far the temper of his son 
and the station he is like to be in, will allow or encourage him to 
comply with fashions which, having very little to do with civil life, 
were yet formerly unknown to the most warlike nations, and seem 
to have added little of force or courage to those who have received 
them; unless we will think martial skill or prowess have been im- 



LEARNING A TRADE 173 

proved by duelling, with which fencing came into, and with which 
I presume it will go out of the world. 

200. These are my present thoughts concerning learning and 
accomplishments. The great business of all is virtue and wisdom : 

Nullum numen abest si sit Prudentia. 

Teach him to get a mastery over his inclinations, and submit his 
appetite to reason. This being obtained, and by constant practice 
settled into habit, the hardest part of the task is over. To bring a 
young man to this, I know nothing which so much contributes as 
the love of praise and commendation, which should therefore be 
instilled into him by all arts imaginable. Make his mind as sensible 
of credit and shame as may be; and when you have done that, you 
have put a principle into him, which will influence his actions when 
you are not by, to which the fear of a little smart of a rod is not 
comparable, and which will be the proper stock whereon after- 
wards to graft the true principles of morality and religion. 

201. I have one thing more to add, which as soon as I mention 
I shall run the danger of being suspected to have forgot what I am 
about, and what I have above written concerning education all 
tending towards a gentleman's calling, with which a trade seems 
wholly inconsistent. And yet I cannot forbear to say, I would have 
him learn a trade, a manual trade; nay two or three, but one more 
particularly. 

202. The busy inclination of children being always to be di- 
rected to something that may be useful to them, the advantages pro- 
posed from what they are set about may be considered of two kinds : 
i. Where the skill itself that is got by exercise is worth the having. 
Thus skill not only in languages and learned sciences, but in paint- 
ing, turning, gardening, tempering and working in iron, and all 
other useful arts is worth the having. 2. Where the exercise itself, 
without any consideration, is necessary or useful for health. Knowl- 
edge in some things is so necessary to be got by children whilst they 
are young, that some part of their time is to be allotted to their im- 
provement in them, though those employments contribute nothing 
at all to their health. Such are reading and writing and all other 



174 JOHN LOCKE 

sedentary studies for the cultivating of the mind, which unavoid- 
ably take up a great part of a gentleman's time, quite from their 
cradles. Other manual arts, which are both got and exercised by 
labour, do many of them by that exercise not only increase our 
dexterity and skill, but contribute to our health too, especially such 
as employ us in the open air. In these, then, health and improve- 
ment may be join'd together; and of these should some fit ones be 
chosen, to be made the recreations of one whose chief business is 
with books and study. In this choice the age and inclination of the 
person is to be considered, and constraint always to be avoided in 
bringing him to it. For command and force may often create, but 
can never cure, an aversion : and whatever any one is brought to by 
compulsion, he will leave as soon as he can, and be little profited 
and less recreated by, whilst he is at it. 

203. That which of all others would please me best, would be a 
painter, were there not an argument or two against it not easy to be 
answered. First, ill painting is one of the worst things in the world; 
and to attain a tolerable degree of skill in it, requires too much of a 
man's time. If he has a natural inclination to it, it will endanger the 
neglect of all other more useful studies to give way to that; and if 
he have no inclination to it, all the time, pains and money shall be 
employed in it, will be thrown away to no purpose. Another reason 
why I am not for painting in a gentleman, is, because it is a sedentary 
recreation, which more employs the mind than the body. A gentle- 
man's more serious employment I look on to be study; and when that 
demands relaxation and refreshment, it should be in some exercise o 
the body, which unbends the thought, and confirms the health and 
strength. For these two reasons I am not for painting. 

204. In the next place, for a country gentleman I should pro- 
pose one, or rather both these, viz. Gardening or husbandry in gen- 
eral, and working in wood, as a carpenter, joiner, or turner, these 
being fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business. 
For since the mind endures not to be constantly employed in the 
same thing or way, and sedentary or studious men should have some 
exercise, that at the same time might divert their minds and employ 
their bodies, I know none that could do it better for a country gentle- 
man than these two; the one of them affording him exercise when 



TRADE AND RECREATION 175 

the weather or season keeps him from the other. Besides that, by 
being skill'd in the one of them, he will be able to govern and teach 
his gardener; by the other, contrive and make a great many things 
both of delight and use : though these I propose not as the chief end 
of his labour, but as temptations to it; diversion from his other more 
serious thoughts and employments by useful and healthy manual 
exercise being what I chiefly aim at in it. 

205. The great men among the antients understood very well 
how to reconcile manual labour with affairs of state, and thought 
it no lessening to their dignity to make the one the recreation to 
the other. That indeed which seems most generally to have em- 
ployed and diverted their spare hours, was agriculture. Gideon 
among the Jews was taken from threshing, as well as Cincinnatus 
amongst the Romans from the plough, to command the armies of 
their countries against their enemies; and 'tis plain their dexterous 
handling of the flayl or the plough, and being good workmen with 
these tools, did not hinder their skill in arms, nor make them less 
able in the arts of war or government. They were great captains and 
statesmen as well as husbandmen. Cato Major, who had with great 
reputation born all the great offices of the commonwealth, has left 
us an evidence under his own hand, how much he was versed in 
country affairs; and, as I remember, Cyrus thought gardening so 
little beneath the dignity and grandeur of a throne, that he shew'd 
Xenophon a large field of fruit-trees all of his own planting. The 
records of antiquity, both among ]ews and Gentiles, are full of in- 
stances of this kind, if it were necessary to recommend useful recrea- 
tions by examples. 

206. Nor let it be thought that I mistake, when I call these or the 
like exercises of manual arts, diversions or recreations: for recrea- 
tion is not being idle (as every one may observe) but easing the 
wearied part by change of business: and he that thinks diversion 
may not lie in hard and painful labour, forgets the early rising, hard 
riding, heat, cold and hunger of huntsmen, which is yet known to 
be the constant recreation of men of the greatest condition. Delving, 
planting, inoculating, or any the like profitable employments, would 
be no less a diversion than any of the idle sports in fashion, if men 
could but be brought to delight in them, which custom and skill 



176 JOHN LOCKE 

in a trade will quickly bring any one to do. And I doubt not but 
there are to be found those, who being frequently called to cards or 
any other play by those they could not refuse, have been more tired 
with these recreations than with any the most serious employment of 
life, though the play has been such as they have naturally had no 
aversion to, and with which they could willingly sometimes divert 
themselves. 

207. Play, wherein persons of condition, especially ladies, waste 
so much of their time, is a plain instance to me that men cannot be 
perfectly idle; they must be doing something; for how else could 
they sit so many hours toiling at that which generally gives more 
vexation than delight to people whilst they are actually engag'd in it ? 
'Tis certain, gaming leaves no satisfaction behind it to those who 
reflect when it is over, and it no way profits either body or mind: 
as to their estates, if it strike so deep as to concern them, it is a trade 
then, and not a recreation, wherein few that have any thing else to 
live on thrive: and at best, a thriving gamester has but a poor trade 
on't, who fills his pockets at the price of his reputation. 

Recreation belongs not to people who are strangers to business, 
and are not wasted and wearied with the employment of their call- 
ing. The skill should be, so to order their time of recreation, that it 
may relax and refresh the part that has been exercised and is tired, 
and yet do something which besides the present delight and ease, 
may produce what will afterwards be profitable. It has been nothing 
but the vanity and pride of greatness and riches, that has brought 
unprofitable and dangerous pastimes (as they are called) into fash- 
ion, and persuaded people into a belief, that the learning or putting 
their hands to any thing that was useful, could not be a diversion 
fit for a gentleman. This has been that which has given cards, dice 
and drinking so much credit in the world: and a great many throw 
away their spare hours in them, through the prevalency of custom, 
and want of some better employment to fill up the vacancy of leisure, 
more than from any real delight is to be found in them. They 
cannot bear the dead weight of unemployed time lying upon their 
hands, nor the uneasiness it is to do nothing at all : and having never 
learned any laudable manual art wherewith to divert themselves, 
they have recourse to those foolish or ill ways in use, to help or! 



TRADE AND RECREATION 177 

their time, which a rational man, till corrupted by custom, could 
find very little pleasure in. 

208. I say not this, that I would never have a young gentleman 
accommodate himself to the innocent diversions in fashion amongst 
those of his age and condition. I am so far from having him austere 
and morose to that degree, that I would persuade him to more than 
ordinary complaisance for all the gaieties and diversions of those 
he converses with, and be averse or testy in nothing they should 
desire of him, that might become a gentleman and an honest man. 
Though as to cards and dice, I think the safest and best way is never 
to learn any play upon them, and so to be incapacitated for those 
dangerous temptations and incroaching wasters of useful time. But 
allowance being made for idle and jovial conversation and all fash- 
ionable becoming recreations; I say, a young man will have time 
enough from his serious and main business, to learn almost any trade. 
'Tis want of application, and not of leisure, that men are not skilful 
in more arts than one; and an hour in a day, constantly employed in 
such a way of diversion, will carry a man in a short time a great deal 
farther than he can imagine: which, if it were of no other use but to 
drive the common, vicious, useless, and dangerous pastimes out of 
fashion, and to shew there was no need of them, would deserve to be 
encouraged. If men from their youth were weaned from that saun- 
tring humour wherein some out of custom let a good part of their 
lives run uselessly away, without either business or recreation, they 
would find time enough to acquire dexterity and sfyll in hundreds of 
things, which, though remote from their proper callings, would not 
at all interfere with them. And therefore, I think, for this, as well 
as other reasons before-mentioned, a lazy, listless humour that idly 
dreams away the days, is of all others the least to be indulged or 
permitted in young people. It is the proper state of one sick and out 
of order in his health, and is tolerable in nobody else of what age or 
condition soever. 

209. To the arts above-mentioned may be added perfuming, 
varnishing, graving, and several sorts of working in iron, brass, and 
silver; and if, as it happens to most young gentlemen, that a con- 
siderable part of his time be spent in a great town, he may learn to 
cut, polish, and set precious stones, or employ himself in grinding and 



178 JOHN LOCKE 

polishing optical glasses. Amongst the great variety there is of in- 
genious manual arts, 'twill be impossible that no one should be 
found to please and delight him, unless he be either idle or de- 
bauched, which is not to be supposed in a right way of education. 
And since he cannot be always employ'd in study, reading, and 
conversation, there will be many an hour, besides what his exercises 
will take up, which, if not spent this way, will be spent worse. For 
I conclude, a young man will seldom desire to sit perfectly still and 
idle; or, if he does, 'tis a fault that ought to be mended. 

210. But if his mistaken parents, frighted with the disgraceful 
names of mechanic^ and trade, shall have an aversion to any thing 
of this kind in their children; yet there is one thing relating to trade, 
which, when they consider, they will think absolutely necessary for 
their sons to learn. 

Merchants' accompts, tho' a science not likely to help a gentleman 
to get an estate, yet possibly there is not any thing of more use and 
efficacy, to make him preserve the estate he has. 'Tis seldom ob- 
served, that he keeps an accompt of his income and expences, and 
thereby has constantly under view the course of his domestick 
affairs, lets them run to ruin : and I doubt not but many a man gets 
behind-hand before he is aware, or runs farther on when he is once 
in, for want of this care, or the skill to do it. I would therefore 
advise all gentlemen to learn perfectly merchants' accompts, and not 
to think it is a skill that belongs not to them, because it has received 
its name from, and has been chiefly practised by men of traffick. 

211. When my young master has once got the skill of peeping 
accounts (which is a business of reason more than arithmetick) per- 
haps it will not be amiss that his father from thenceforth require him 
to do it in all his concernments. Not that I would have him set 
down every pint of wine or play that costs him money; the general 
name of expences will serve for such things well enough : nor would 
I have his father look so narrowly into these accompts, as to take 
occasion from thence to criticise on his expences; he must remember 
that he himself was once a young man, and not forget the thoughts 
he had then, nor the right his son has to have the same, and to have 
allowance made for them. If therefore I would have the young 
gentleman oblig'd to keep an account, it is not at all to have that 



TRAVEL 179 

way a check upon his expences (for what the father allows him, he 
ought to let him be fully master of) but only, that he might be 
brought early into the custom of doing it, and that it might be made 
familiar and habitual to him betimes, which will be so useful and 
necessary to be constantly practised the whole course of his life. A 
noble Venetian, whose son wallowed in the plenty of his father's 
riches, finding his son's expences grow very high and extravagant, 
ordered his cashier to let him have for the future no more money 
than what he should count when he received it. This one would 
think no great restraint to a young gentleman's expences; who could 
freely have as much money as he would tell. But yet this, to one that 
was used to nothing but the pursuit of his pleasures, prov'd a very 
great trouble, which at last ended in this sober and advantageous 
reflection: if it be so much pains to me barely to count the money 
I would spend, what labour and pains did it cost my ancestors, 
not only to count, but get it? This rational thought, suggested 
by this little pains impos'd upon him, wrought so effectually upon 
his mind, that it made him take up, and from that time forwards 
prove a good husband. This, at least, every body must allow, that 
nothing is likelier to keep a man within compass than the having 
constantly before his eyes the state of his affairs in a regular course 
of accompt. 

212. The last part usually in education is travel, which is com- 
monly thought to finish the work, and complete the gentleman. I 
confess travel into foreign countries has great advantages, but the 
time usually chosen to send young men abroad, is, I think, of all 
other, that which renders their least capable of reaping those ad- 
vantages. Those which are propos'd, as to the main of them, may be 
reduced to these two: first, language, secondly, an improvement in 
wisdom and prudence, by seeing men, and conversing with people of 
tempers, customs and ways of living, different from one another, and 
especially from those of his parish and neighbourhood. But from 
sixteen to one and twenty, which is the ordinary time of travel, men 
are, of all their lives, the least suited to these improvements. The 
first season to get foreign languages, and form the tongue to their 
true accents, I should think, should be from seven to fourteen or 
sixteen, and then too a tutor with them is useful and necessary, who 



l8o JOHN LOCKE 

may with those languages teach them other things. But to put them 
out of their parents' view at a great distance under a governor, when 
they think themselves to be too much men to be governed by others, 
and yet have not prudence and experience enough to govern them- 
selves, what is it, but to expose them to all the greatest dangers of 
their whole life, when they have the least fence and guard against 
them? 'Till that boiling boisterous part of life comes in, it may be 
hoped the tutor may have some authority: neither the stubbornness 
of age, nor the temptation or examples of others, can take him from 
his tutor's conduct till fifteen or sixteen; but then, when he begins 
to comfort himself with men, and thinks himself one; when he comes 
to relish and pride himself in manly vices, and thinks it a shame to 
be any longer under the controul and conduct of another, what can 
be hoped from even the most careful and discreet governor, when 
neither he has power to compel, nor his pupil a disposition to be 
persuaded; but on the contrary, has the advice of warm blood and 
prevailing fashion, to hearken to the temptations of his companions, 
just as wise as himself, rather than to the persuasions of his tutor, 
who is now looked on as an enemy to his freedom? And when is 
a man so like to miscarry, as when at the same time he is both raw 
and unruly? This is the season of all his life that most requires 
the eye and authority of his parents and friends to govern it. The 
flexibleness of the former part of a man's age, not yet grown up to 
be headstrong, makes it more governable and safe; and in the after- 
part, reason and foresight begin a little to take place, and mind a man 
of his safety and improvement. The time therefore I should think 
the fittest for a young gentleman to be sent abroad, would be, either 
when he is younger, under a tutor, whom he might be the better 
for; or when he is some years older, without a governor; when he is 
of age to govern himself, and make observations of what he finds 
in other countries worthy his notice, and that might be of use to 
him after his return; and when too, being throughly acquainted with 
the laws and fashions, the natural and moral advantages and defects 
of his own country, he has something to exchange with those abroad, 
from whose conversation he hoped to reap any knowledge. 

213. [Wanting]. 

214. The ordering of travel otherwise, is that, I imagine, which 



TRAVEL l8l 

makes so many young gentlemen come back so little improved by it. 
And if they do bring home with them any knowledge of the places 
and people they have seen, it is often an admiration of the worst 
and vainest practices they met with abroad; retaining a relish and 
memory of those things wherein their liberty took its first swing, 
rather than of what should make them better and wiser after their 
return. And indeed how can it be otherwise, going abroad at the 
age they do under the care of another, who is to provide their nec- 
essaries, and make their observations for them? Thus under the 
shelter and pretence of a governor, thinking themselves excused 
from standing upon their own legs or being accountable for their 
own conduct, they very seldom trouble themselves with enquiries or 
making useful observations of their own. Their thoughts run after 
play and pleasure, wherein they take it as a lessening to be controll'd; 
but seldom trouble themselves to examine the designs, observe the 
address, and consider the arts, tempers, and inclinations of men they 
meet with; that so they may know how to comport themselves to- 
wards them. Here he that travels with them is to screen them; get 
them out when they have run themselves into the briars; and in all 
their miscarriages be answerable for them. 

215. I confess, the knowledge of men is so great a skill, that it 
is not to be expected a young man should presently be perfect in it. 
But yet his going abroad is to little purpose, if travel does not some- 
times open his eyes, make him cautious and wary, and accustom him 
to look beyond the outside, and, under the inoffensive guard of a 
civil and obliging carriage, keep himself free and safe in his conver- 
sation with strangers and all sorts of people without forfeiting their 
good opinion. He that is sent out to travel at the age, and with the 
thoughts of a man designing to improve himself, may get into the 
conversation and acquaintance of persons of condition where he 
comes; which, tho' a thing of most advantage to a gentleman that 
travels, yet I ask, amongst our young men that go abroad under 
tutors, what one is there of an hundred, that ever visits any person 
of quality? Much less makes an acquaintance with such, from 
whose conversation he may learn what is good breeding in that 
country, and what is worth observation in it; tho' from such persons 
it is, one may learn more in one day, than in a year's rambling from 



1 82 JOHN LOCKE 

one inn to another. Nor indeed, is it to be wondered; for men of 
worth and parts will not easily admit the familiarity of boys who 
yet need the care of a tutor; tho' a young gentleman and stranger, 
appearing like a man, and shewing a desire to inform himself in 
the customs, manners, laws, and government of the country he is 
in, will find welcome assistance and entertainment amongst the best 
and most knowing persons every where, who will be ready to re- 
ceive, encourage and countenance, an ingenuous and inquisitive 
foreigner. 

216. This, how true soever it be, will not I fear alter the custom, 
which has cast the time of travel upon the worst part of a man's life; 
but for reasons not taken from their improvement. The young lad 
must not be ventured abroad at eight or ten, for fear of what may 
happen to the tender child, tho' he then runs ten times less risque 
than at sixteen or eighteen. Nor must he stay at home till that 
dangerous, heady age be over, because he must be back again by one 
and twenty, to marry and propagate. The father cannot stay any 
longer for the portion, nor the mother for a new set of babies to play 
with; and so my young master, whatever comes on it, must have a 
wife look'd out for him by that time he is of age; tho' it would be 
no prejudice to his strength, his parts, or his issue, if it were respited 
for some time, and he had leave to get, in years and knowledge, 
the start a little of his children, who are often found to tread too 
near upon the heels of their fathers, to the no great satisfaction 
either of son or father. But the young gentleman being got within 
view of matrimony, 'tis time to leave him to his mistress. 

217. Tho' I am now come to a conclusion of what obvious 
remarks have suggested to me concerning education, I would not 
have it thought that I look on it as a just treatise on this subject. 
There are a thousand other things that may need consideration; 
especially if one should take in the various tempers, different inclin- 
ations, and particular defaults, that are to be found in children, and 
prescribe proper remedies. The variety is so great that it would 
require a volume; nor would that reach it. Each man's mind has 
some peculiarity, as well as his face, that distinguishes him from all 
others; and there are possibly scarce two children who can be con- 
ducted by exactly the same method. Besides that, I think a prince, a 



CONCLUSION 183 

nobleman, and an ordinary gentleman's son, should have different 
ways of breeding. But having had here only some general views in 
reference to the main end and aims in education, and those designed 
for a gentleman's son, whom, being then very little, I considered only 
as white paper, or wax, to be moulded and fashioned as one pleases; 
I have touched little more than those heads which I judged neces- 
sary for the breeding of a young gentleman of his condition in 
general; and have now published these my occasional thoughts with 
this hope, that tho' this be far from being a complete treatise on this 
subject, or such as that every one may find what will just fit his 
child in it, yet it may give some small light to those, whose concern 
for their dear little ones makes them so irregularly bold, that they 
dare venture to consult their own reason in the education of their 
children, rather than wholly to rely upon old custom. 



THREE DIALOGUES BETWEEN 
HYLAS AND PHILONOUS, ETC. 



BY 
GEORGE BERKELEY 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

GEORGE BERKELEY, Bishop of Cloyne, was born in the County of 
Kilkenny, Ireland, March 12, 1685. He was educated at Trinity College, 
Dublin, where he became acquainted with the writings of Locke, and 
grew enthusiastically interested in the "new philosophy," as it was called, 
in contrast to the scholasticism which Trinity College had not yet offi- 
cially discarded. When he was only twenty-four he published his "Essay 
Towards a New Theory of Vision," and in the next year his "Treatise 
Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge"; but being disap- 
pointed in the comparative neglect of his new ideas by the philosophers 
of the day, he proceeded to discuss both objections and answers in the 
"Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous," published in 1713, and here 
reprinted. 

Meantime, Berkeley had been appointed to various college offices; and 
in 1713 he crossed to England and gained access to the circles of Addison 
and Pope. Through Swift's influence he went to Italy as chaplain to 
Lord Peterborough; and after several years, spent partly in London and 
partly on the Continent, he returned to Ireland in 1721 as chaplain to the 
Lord Lieutenant, became Dean of Derry, and inherited property. 

Berkeley had now become possessed with the idea of a great future 
for Christianity in America, planned a college in Bermuda, and, while the 
grants of money which he hoped for were in suspense, he crossed the 
Atlantic and spent the years 1728-31 in Rhode Island. Becoming hope- 
less of ever getting the required endowment for his college, he returned 
to England, published "Alciphron," which he had written on his Amer- 
ican farm, and retired to the Bishopric of Cloyne, where he lived almost 
to the end of his life, practising benevolence in his diocese and publishing 
the virtues of tar-water, a panacea in which he believed with character- 
istic enthusiasm. He died at Oxford, January 14, 1753. 

The following Dialogues are the best defense of Berkeley's main doc- 
trines, and are regarded by Leslie Stephen as "the finest specimen in our 
language of the conduct of argument by dialogue." His chief editor, 
Fraser, calls them "the gem of British metaphysical literature." 



THREE DIALOGUES 

BETWEEN 

HYLAS AND PHILONOUS 

THE DESIGN OF WHICH IS PLAINLY TO DEMONSTRATE 
THE REALITY AND PERFECTION OF 

HUMAN KNOWLEDGE 

THE INCORPOREAL NATURE OF THE 

SOUL 

AND THE IMMEDIATE PROVIDENCE OF A 

DEITY 

IN OPPOSITION TO 

SCEPTICS AND ATHEISTS 



ALSO TO OPEN A METHOD FOR RENDERING THE SCIENCES MORE 
EASY, USEFUL, AND COMPENDIOUS 



First published in 1713 



THREE DIALOGUES 

BETWEEN 

HYLAS AND PHILONOUS, IN OPPOSITION TO 
SCEPTICS AND ATHEISTS 

THE FIRST DIALOGUE 

W ^HILONOUS. Good morrow, Hylas: I did not expect to find 

1^ you abroad so early. 

m Hylas. It is indeed something unusual; but my thoughts 

were so taken up with a subject I was discoursing of last night, that 
finding I could not sleep, I resolved to rise and take a turn in the 
garden. 

Phil. It happened well, to let you see what innocent and agreeable 
pleasures you lose every morning. Can there be a pleasanter time of 
the day, or a more delightful season of the year? That purple sky, 
those wild but sweet notes of birds, the fragrant bloom upon the 
trees and flowers, the gentle influence of the rising sun, these and a 
thousand nameless beauties of nature inspire the soul with secret 
transports; its faculties too being at this time fresh and lively, are fit 
for those meditations, which the solitude of a garden and tran- 
quillity of the morning naturally dispose us to. But I am afraid I 
interrupt your thoughts: for you seemed very intent on something. 

Hyl. It is true, I was, and shall be obliged to you if you will permit 
me to go on in the same vein; not that I would by any means de- 
prive myself of your company, for my thoughts always flow more 
easily in conversation with a friend, than when I am alone: but my 
request is, that you would suffer me to impart my reflexions to you. 

Phil. With all my heart, it is what I should have requested my- 
self if you had not prevented me. 

Hyl. I was considering the odd fate of those men who have in all 
ages, through an affectation of being distinguished from the vulgar, 

189 



I9O GEORGE BERKELEY 

or some unaccountable turn of thought, pretended either to believe 
nothing at all, or to believe the most extravagant things in the world. 
This however might be borne, if their paradoxes and scepticism 
did not draw after them some consequences of general disadvantage 
to mankind. But the mischief lieth here; that when men of less 
leisure see them who are supposed to have spent their whole time in 
the pursuits of knowledge professing an entire ignorance of all 
things, or advancing such notions as are repugnant to plain and 
commonly received principles, they will be tempted to entertain 
suspicions concerning the most important truths, which they had 
hitherto held sacred and unquestionable. 

Phil. I entirely agree with you, as to the ill tendency of the 
arTected doubts of some philosophers, and fantastical conceits of 
others. I am even so far gone of late in this way of thinking, that I 
have quitted several of the sublime notions I had got in their schools 
for vulgar opinions. And I give it you on my word; since this revolt 
from metaphysical notions to the plain dictates of nature and com- 
mon sense, I find my understanding strangely enlightened, so that 
I can now easily comprehend a great many things which before 
were all mystery and riddle. 

Hyl. I am glad to find there was nothing in the accounts I heard 
of you. 

Phil. Pray, what were those ? 

Hyl. You were represented, in last night's conversation, as one 
who maintained the most extravagant opinion that ever entered into 
the mind of man, to wit, that there is no such thing as material sub- 
stance in the world. 

Phil. That there is no such thing as what philosophers call material 
substance, I am seriously persuaded: but, if I were made to see any- 
thing absurd or sceptical in this, I should then have the same reason 
to renounce this that I imagine I have now to reject the contrary 
opinion. 

Hyl. What! can anything be more fantastical, more repugnant to 
Common Sense, or a more manifest piece of Scepticism, than to 
believe there is no such thing as matter? 

Phil. Softly, good Hylas. What if it should prove that you, who 
hold there is, are, by virtue of that opinion, a greater sceptic, and 



FIRST DIALOGUE 

maintain more paradoxes and repugnances to Common Sense, than 
I who believe no such thing? 

Hyl. You may as soon persuade me, the part is greater than the 
whole, as that, in order to avoid absurdity and Scepticism, I should 
ever be obliged to give up my opinion in this point. 

Phil. Well then, are you content to admit that opinion for true, 
which upon examination shall appear most agreeable to Common 
Sense, and remote from Scepticism ? 

Hyl. With all my heart. Since you are for raising disputes about 
the plainest things in nature, I am content for once to hear what you 
have to say. 

Phil. Pray, Hylas, what do you mean by a sceptic? 

Hyl. I mean what all men mean one that doubts of everything. 

Phil. He then who entertains no doubts concerning some particu- 
lar point, with regard to that point cannot be thought a sceptic. 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. Whether doth doubting consist in embracing the affirmative 
or negative side of a question? 

Hyl. In neither; for whoever understands English cannot but 
know that doubting signifies a suspense between both. 

Phil. He then that denies any point, can no more be said to doubt 
of it, than he who affirmeth it with the same degree of assurance. 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. And, consequently, for such his denial is no more to be 
esteemed a sceptic than the other. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. 

Phil. How cometh it to pass then, Hylas, that you pronounce me 
a sceptic, because I deny what you affirm, to wit, the existence of 
Matter? Since, for aught you can tell, I am as peremptory in my 
denial, as you in your affirmation. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I have been a little out in my definition; 
but every false step a man makes in discourse is not to be insisted 
on. I said indeed that a sceptic was one who doubted of everything; 
but I should have added, or who denies the reality and truth of 
things. 

Phil. What things? Do you mean the principles and theorems 
of sciences? But these you know are universal intellectual notions, 



192 GEORGE BERKELEY 

and consequently independent of Matter. The denial therefore of 
this doth not imply the denying them. 

Hyl. I grant it. But are there no other things? What think you 
of distrusting the senses, of denying the real existence of sensible 
things, or pretending to know nothing of them. Is not this sufficient 
to denominate a man a sceptic? 

Phil. Shall we therefore examine which of us it is that denies the 
reality of sensible things, or professes the greatest ignorance of 
them; since, if I take you rightly, he is to be esteemed the greatest 
sceptic? 

Hyl. That is what I desire. 

Phil. What mean you by Sensible Things? 

Hyl. Those things which are perceived by the senses. Can you 
imagine that I mean anything else? 

Phil. Pardon me, Hylas, if I am desirous clearly to apprehend 
your notions, since this may much shorten our inquiry. Suffer me 
then to ask you this farther question. Are those things only per- 
ceived by the senses which are perceived immediately ? Or, may those 
things properly be said to be sensible which are perceived mediately, 
or not without the intervention of others ? 

Hyl. I do not sufficiently understand you. 

Phil. In reading a book, what I immediately perceive are the 
letters; but mediately, or by means of these, are suggested to my 
mind the notions of God, virtue, truth, &c. Now, that the letters are 
truly sensible things, or perceived by sense, there is no doubt: but I 
would know whether you take the things suggested by them to be 
so too. 

Hyl. No, certainly: it were absurd to think God or virtue sensi- 
ble things; though they may be signified and suggested to the mind 
by sensible marks, with which they have an arbitrary connexion. 

Phil. It seems then, that by sensible things you mean those only 
which can be perceived immediately by sense? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Doth it not follow from this, that though I see one part of 
the sky red, and another blue, and that my reason doth thence evi- 
dently conclude there must be some cause of that diversity of colours, 



FIRST DIALOGUE 193 

yet that cause cannot be said to be a sensible thing, or perceived by the 
sense of seeing? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. In like manner, though I hear variety of sounds, yet I can- 
not be said to hear the causes of those sounds ? 

Hyl. You cannot. 

Phil. And when by my touch I perceive a thing to be hot and 
heavy, I cannot say, with any truth or propriety, that I feel the cause 
of its heat or weight? 

Hyl. To prevent any more questions of this kind, I tell you once 
for all, that by sensible things I mean those only which are perceived 
by sense; and that in truth the senses perceive nothing which they 
do not perceive immediately: for they make no inferences. The de- 
ducing therefore of causes or occasions from effects and appearances, 
which alone are perceived by sense, entirely relates to reason. 

Phil. This point then is agreed between us That sensible things 
are those only which are immediately perceived by sense. You will 
farther inform me, whether we immediately perceive by sight any- 
thing beside light, and colours, and figures; or by hearing, anything 
but sounds; by the palate, anything beside tastes; by the smell, beside 
odours; or by the touch, more than tangible qualities. 

Hyl. We do not. 

Phil. It seems, therefore, that if you take away all sensible quali- 
ties, there remains nothing sensible ? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. Sensible things therefore are nothing else but so many sensi- 
ble qualities, or combinations of sensible qualities? 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. Heat then is a sensible thing? 

Hyl. Certainly. 

Phil. Doth the reality of sensible things consist in being perceived ? 
or, is it something distinct from their being perceived, and that bears 
no relation to the mind? 

Hyl. To exist is one thing, and to be perceived is another. 

Phil. I speak with regard to sensible things only. And of these 
I ask, whether by their real existence you mean a subsistence exterior 
to the mind, and distinct from their being perceived ? 



194 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. I mean a real absolute being, distinct from, and without 
any relation to, their being perceived. 

Phil. Heat therefore, if it be allowed a real being, must exist 
without the mind? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, is this real existence equally compatible to 
all degrees of heat, which we perceive; or is there any reason why we 
should attribute it to some, and deny it to others ? And if there be, 
pray let me know that reason. 

Hyl. Whatever degree of heat we perceive by sense, we may be 
sure the same exists in the object that occasions it. 

Phil. What! the greatest as well as the least? 

Hyl. I tell you, the reason is plainly the same in respect of both. 
They are both perceived by sense; nay, the greater degree of heat 
is more sensibly perceived; and consequently, if there is any differ- 
ence, we are more certain of its real existence than we can be of the 
reality of a lesser degree. 

Phil. But is not the most vehement and intense degree of heat a 
very great pain? 

Hyl. No one can deny it. 

Phil. And is any unperceiving thing capable of pain or pleasure? 

Hyl. No, certainly. 

Phil. Is your material substance a senseless being, or a being en- 
dowed with sense and perception? 

Hyl. It is senseless without doubt. 

Phil. It cannot therefore be the subject of pain? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. Nor consequently of the greatest heat perceived by sense, 
since you acknowledge this to be no small pain? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. What shall we say then of your external object; is it a mate- 
rial Substance, or no? 

Hyl. It is a material substance with the sensible qualities inhering 
in it. 

Phil. How then can a great heat exist in it, since you own it can- 
not in a material substance? I desire you would clear this point. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I fear I was out in yielding intense heat to 



FIRST DIALOGUE 195 

be a pain. It should seem rather, that pain is something distinct from 
heat, and the consequence or effect of it. 

Phil. Upon putting your hand near the fire, do you perceive one 
simple uniform sensation, or two distinct sensations? 

Hyl. But one simple sensation. 

Phil. Is not the heat immediately perceived?. 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And the pain? 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. Seeing therefore they are both immediately perceived at 
the same time, and the fire affects you only with one simple or un- 
compounded idea, it follows that this same simple idea is both the 
intense heat immediately perceived, and the pain; and, consequently, 
that the intense heat immediately perceived is nothing distinct from 
a particular sort of pain. 

Hyl. It seems so. 

Phil. Again, try in your thoughts, Hylas, if you can conceive a 
vehement sensation to be without pain or pleasure. 

Hyl. I cannot. 

Phil. Or can you frame to yourself an idea of sensible pain or 
pleasure in general, abstracted from every particular idea of heat, 
cold, tastes, smells? &c. 

Hyl. I do not find that I can. 

Phil. Doth it not therefore follow, that sensible pain is nothing 
distinct from those sensations or ideas, in an intense degree ? 

Hyl. It is undeniable; and, to speak the truth, I begin to suspect 
a very great heat cannot exist but in a mind perceiving it. 

Phil. What! are you then in that sceptical state of suspense, 
between affirming and denying? 

Hyl. I think I may be positive in the point. A very violent and 
painful heat cannot exist without the mind. 

Phil. It hath not therefore according to you, any real being? 

Hyl. I own it. 

Phil. Is it therefore certain, that there is no body in nature really 
hot? 

Hyl. I have not denied there is any real heat in bodies. I only say, 
there is no such thing as an intense real heat. 



196 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. But, did you not say before that all degrees of heat were 
equally real; or, if there was any difference, that the greater were 
more undoubtedly real than the lesser ? 

Hyl. True: but it was because I did not then consider the ground 
there is for distinguishing between them, which I now plainly see. 
And it is this: because intense heat is nothing else but a particu- 
lar kind of painful sensation; and pain cannot exist but in a per- 
ceiving being; it follows that no intense heat can really exist in 
an unperceiving corporeal substance. But this is no reason why 
we should deny heat in an inferior degree to exist in such a sub- 
stance. 

Phil. But how shall we be able to discern those degrees of heat 
which exist only in the mind from those which exist without it ? 

Hyl. That is no difficult matter. You know the least pain cannot 
exist unperceived; whatever, therefore, degree of heat is a pain exists 
only in the mind. But, as for all other degrees of heat, nothing 
obliges us to think the same of them. 

Phil. I think you granted before that no unperceiving being was 
capable of pleasure, any more than of pain. 

Hyl. I did. 

Phil. And is not warmth, or a more gentle degree of heat than 
what causes uneasiness, a pleasure? 

Hyl. What then? 

Phil. Consequently, it cannot exist without the mind in an un- 
perceiving substance, or body. 

Hyl. So it seems. 

Phil. Since, therefore, as well those degrees of heat that are not 
painful, as those that are, can exist only in a thinking substance; may 
we not conclude that external bodies are absolutely incapable of any 
degree of heat whatsoever? 

Hyl. On second thoughts, I do not think it so evident that warmth 
is a pleasure as that a great degree of heat is a pain. 

Phil. I do not pretend that warmth is as great a pleasure as heat 
is a pain. But, if you grant it to be even a small pleasure, it serves 
to make good my conclusion. 

Hyl. I could rather call it an indolence. It seems to be nothing 
more than a privation of both pain and pleasure. And that such a 



FIRST DIALOGUE 197 

quality or state as this may agree to an unthinking substance, I hope 
you will not deny. 

Phil. If you are resolved to maintain that warmth, or a gentle 
degree of heat, is no pleasure, I know not how to convince you other- 
wise than by appealing to your own sense. But what think you 
of cold? 

Hyl. The same that I do of heat. An intense degree of cold is a 
pain; for to feel a very great cold, is to perceive a great uneasiness: 
it cannot therefore exist without the mind; but a lesser degree of 
cold may, as well as a lesser degree of heat. 

Phil. Those bodies, therefore, upon whose application to our 
own, we perceive a moderate degree of heat, must be concluded to 
have a moderate degree of heat or warmth in them; and those, upon 
whose application we feel a like degree of cold, must be thought to 
have cold in them. 

Hyl. They must. 

Phil. Can any doctrine be true that necessarily leads a man into 
an absurdity? 

Hyl. Without doubt it cannot. 

Phil. Is it not an absurdity to think that the same thing should be 
at the same time both cold and warm ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Suppose now one of your hands hot, and the other cold, 
and that they are both at once put into the same vessel of water, in 
an intermediate state; will not the water seem cold to one hand, and 
warm to the other? 

Hyl. It will. 

Phil. Ought we not therefore, by your principles, to conclude 
it is really both cold and warm at the same time, that is, according 
to your own concession, to believe an absurdity? 

Hyl. I confess it seems so. 

Phil. Consequently, the principles themselves are false, since you 
have granted that no true principle leads to an absurdity. 

Hyl. But, after all, can anything be more absurd than to say, there 
Is no heat in the fire? 

Phil. To make the point still clearer; tell me whether, in two 
cases exactly alike, we ought not to make the same judgment? 



Ip GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. We ought. 

Phil. When a pin pricks your finger, doth it not rend and divide 
the fibres of your flesh? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. And when a coal burns your finger, doth it any more ? 

Hyl. It doth not. 

Phil. Since, therefore, you neither judge the sensation itself occa- 
sioned by the pin, nor anything like it to be in the pin; you should 
not, conformably to what you have now granted, judge the sensation 
occasioned by the fire, or anything like it, to be in the fire. 

Hyl. Well, since it must be so, I am content to yield this point, 
and acknowledge that heat and cold are only sensations existing in 
our minds. But there still remain qualities enough to secure the 
reality of external things. 

Phil. But what will you say, Hylas, if it shall appear that the 
case is the same with regard to all other sensible qualities, and that 
they can no more be supposed to exist without the mind, than heat 
and cold? 

Hyl. Then indeed you will have done something to the purpose; 
but that is what I despair of seeing proved. 

Phil. Let us examine them in order. What think you of tastes 
do they exist without the mind, or no? 

Hyl. Can any man in his senses doubt whether sugar is sweet, or 
wormwood bitter? 

Phil. Inform me, Hylas. Is a sweet taste a particular kind of pleas- 
ure or pleasant sensation, or is it not? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And is not bitterness some kind of uneasiness or pain ? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. If therefore sugar and wormwood are unthinking corporeal 
substances existing without the mind, how can sweetness and bitter- 
ness, that is, pleasure and pain, agree to them? 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous, I now see what it was deluded me all this 
time. You asked whether heat and cold, sweetness and bitterness, 
were not particular sorts of pleasure and pain; to which I answered 
simply, that they were. Whereas I should have thus distinguished : 
those qualities, as perceived by us, are pleasures or pains; but not as 



FIRST DIALOGUE 199 

existing in the external objects. We must not therefore conclude 
absolutely, that there is no heat in the fire, or sweetness in the 
sugar, but only that heat or sweetness, as perceived by us, are not 
in the fire or sugar. What say you to this ? 

Phil. I say it is nothing to the purpose. Our discourse proceeded 
altogether concerning sensible things, which you defined to be, the 
things we immediately perceive by our senses. Whatever other 
qualities, therefore, you speak of as distinct from these, I know 
nothing of them, neither do they at all belong to the point in dis- 
pute. You may, indeed, pretend to have discovered certain qualities 
which you do not perceive, and assert those insensible qualities exist 
in fire and sugar. But what use can be made of this to your present 
purpose, I am at a loss to conceive. Tell me then once more, do you 
acknowledge that heat and cold, sweetness and bitterness (meaning 
those qualities which are perceived by the senses), do not exist with- 
out the mind ? 

HyL I see it is to no purpose to hold out, so I give up the cause 
as to those mentioned qualities. Though I profess it sounds oddly, to 
say that sugar is not sweet. 

Phil. But, for your farther satisfaction, take this along with you: 
that which at other times seems sweet, shall, to a distempered palate, 
appear bitter. And, nothing can be plainer than that divers persons 
perceive different tastes in the same food; since that which one man 
delights in, another abhors. And how could this be, if the taste was 
something really inherent in the food? 

Hyl. I acknowledge I know not how. 

Phil. In the next place, odours are to be considered. And, with 
regard to these, I would fain know whether what hath been said of 
tastes doth not exactly agree to them ? Are they not so many pleas- 
ing or displeasing sensations ? 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. Can you then conceive it possible that they should exist in 
an unperceiving thing? 

Hyl. I cannot. 

Phil. Or, can you imagine that filth and ordure affect those brute 
animals that feed on them out of choice, with the same smells which 
we perceive in them ? 



2OO GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. May we not therefore conclude of smells, as of the other 
forementioned qualities, that they cannot exist in any but a perceiv- 
ing substance or mind? 

Hyl. I think so. 

Phil. Then as to sounds, what must we think of them: are they 
accidents really inherent in external bodies, or not ? 

Hyl. That they inhere not in the sonorous bodies is plain from 
hence : because a bell struck in the exhausted receiver of an air-pump 
sends forth no sound. The air, therefore, must be thought the sub- 
ject of sound. 

Phil. What reason is there for that, Hylas ? 

Hyl. Because, when any motion is raised in the air, we perceive a 
sound greater or lesser, according to the air's motion; but without 
some motion in the air, we never hear any sound at all. 

Phil. And granting that we never hear a sound but when some 
motion is produced in the air, yet I do not see how you can infer 
from thence, that the sound itself is in the air. 

Hyl. It is this very motion in the external air that produces in 
the mind the sensation of sound. For, striking on the drum of the 
ear, it causeth a vibration, which by the auditory nerves being com- 
municated to the brain, the soul is thereupon affected with the sensa- 
tion called sound. 

Phil. What! is sound then a sensation? 

Hyl. I tell you, as perceived by us, it is a particular sensation in 
the mind. 

Phil. And can any sensation exist without the mind ? 

Hyl. No, certainly. 

Phil. How then can sound, being a sensation, exist in the air, if by 
the air you mean a senseless substance existing without the mind ? 

Hyl. You must distinguish, Philonous, between sound as it is per- 
ceived by us, and as it is in itself; or (which is the same thing) 
between the sound we immediately perceive, and that which 
exists without us. The former, indeed, is a particular kind of sen- 
sation, but the latter is merely a vibrative or undulatory motion in 
the air. 

Phil. I thought I had already obviated that distinction, by the 



FIRST DIALOGUE 2OI 

answer I gave when you were applying it in a like case before. 
But, to say no more of that, are you sure then that sound is really 
nothing but motion ? 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. Whatever therefore agrees to real sound, may with truth be 
attributed to motion ? 

Hyl. It may. 

Phil. It is then good sense to speak of motion as of a thing that is 
loud, sweet, acute, or grave. 

Hyl. I see you are resolved not to understand me. Is it not evident 
those accidents or modes belong only to sensible sound, or sound in 
the common acceptation of the word, but not to sound in the real 
and philosophic sense; which, as I just now told you, is nothing but 
a certain motion of the air ? 

Phil. It seems then there are two sorts of sound the one vulgar, 
or that which is heard, the other philosophical and real ? 

Hyl. Even so. 

Phil. And the latter consists in motion ? 

Hyl. I told you so before. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, to which of the senses, think you, the idea 
of motion belongs? to the hearing? 

Hyl. No, certainly; but to the sight and touch. 

Phil. It should follow then, that, according to you, real sounds 
may possibly be seen or felt, but never heard. 

Hyl. Look you, Philonous, you may, if you please, make a jest of 
my opinion, but that will not alter the truth of things. I own, indeed, 
the inferences you draw me into sound something oddly; but com- 
mon language, you know, is framed by, and for the use of the vulgar : 
we must not therefore wonder if expressions adapted to exact phil- 
osophic notions seem uncouth and out of the way. 

Phil. Is it come to that? I assure you, I imagine myself to have 
gained no small point, since you make so light of departing from 
common phrases and opinions; it being a main part of our inquiry, 
to examine whose notions are widest of the common road, and 
most repugnant to the general sense of the world. But, can you think 
it no more than a philosophical paradox, to say that real sounds are 
never heard, and that the idea of them is obtained by some other 



2O2 GEORGE BERKELEY 

sense? And is there nothing in this contrary to nature and the truth 
of things? 

Hyl. To deal ingenuously, I do not like it. And, after the con- 
cessions already made, I had as well grant that sounds too have no 
real being without the mind. 

Phil. And I hope you will make no difficulty to acknowledge the 
same of colours. 

Hyl. Pardon me: the case of colours is very different. Can any- 
thing be plainer than that we see them on the objects? 

Phil. The objects you speak of are, I suppose, corporeal Substances 
existing without the mind ? 

Hyl. They are. 

P*hiL And have true and real colours inhering in them? 

Hyl. Each visible object hath that colour which we see in it. 

Phil. How! is there anything visible but what we perceive by 
sight? 

Hyl. There is not. 

Phil. And, do we perceive anything by sense which we do not 
perceive immediately? 

Hyl. How often must I be obliged to repeat the same thing? I 
te\l f you, we do not. 

Phil. Have patience, good Hylas; and tell me once more, whether 
there is anything immediately perceived by the senses, except sensible 
qualities. I know you asserted there was not; but I would now be 
informed, whether you still persist in the same opinion. 

Hyl. I do. 

Phil. Pray, is your corporeal substance either a sensible quality, 
or made up of sensible qualities? 

Hyl. What a question that is! who ever thought it was? 

Phil. My reason for asking was, because in saying, each visible 
object hath that colour which we see in it, you make visible objects 
to be corporeal substances; which implies either that corporeal sub- 
stances are sensible qualities, or else that there is something besides 
sensible qualities perceived by sight: but, as this point was formerly 
agreed between us, and is still maintained by you, it is a clear conse- 
quence, that your corporeal substance is nothing distinct from sensi- 
ble qualities. 



FIRST DIALOGUE 203 

Hyl. You may draw as many absurd consequences as you please, 
and endeavour to perplex the plainest things; but you shall never 
persuade me out of my senses. I clearly understand my own mean- 
ing. 

Phil. I wish you would make me understand it too. But, since 
you are unwilling to have your notion o corporeal substance ex- 
amined, I shall urge that point no farther. Only be pleased to let me 
know, whether the same colours which we see exist in external 
bodies, or some other. 

Hyl. The very same. 

Phil. What! are then the beautiful red and purple we see on 
yonder clouds really in them? Or do you imagine they have in 
themselves any other form than that of a dark mist or vapour? 

Hyl. I must own, Philonous, those colours are not really in the 
clouds as they seem to be at this distance. They are only apparent 
colours. 

Phil. Apparent call you them? how shall we distinguish these 
apparent colours from real? 

Hyl. Very easily. Those are to be thought apparent which, ap- 
pearing only at a distance, vanish upon a nearer approach. 

Phil. And those, I suppose, are to be thought real which are dis- 
covered by the most near and exact survey. 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Is the nearest and exactest survey made by the help of a 
microscope, or by the naked eye? 

Hyl. By a microscope, doubtless. 

Phil. But a microscope often discovers colours in an object differ- 
ent from those perceived by the unassisted sight. And, in case we had 
microscopes magnifying to any assigned degree, it is certain that no 
object whatsoever, viewed through them, would appear in the same 
colour which it exhibits to the naked eye. 

Hyl. And what will you conclude from all this? You cannot 
argue that there are really and naturally no colours on objects: be- 
cause by artificial managements they may be altered, or made to 
vanish. 

Phil. I think it may evidently be concluded from your own con- 
cessions, that all the colours we see with our naked eyes are only 



2O4 GEORGE BERKELEY 

apparent as those on the clouds, since they vanish upon a more close 
and accurate inspection which is afforded us by a microscope. Then, 
as to what you say by way of prevention : I ask you whether the real 
and natural state of an object is better discovered by a very sharp and 
piercing sight, or by one which is less sharp? 

Hyl. By the former without doubt. 

Phil. Is it not plain from Dioptrics that microscopes make the 
sight more penetrating, and represent objects as they would appear 
to the eye in case it were naturally endowed with a most exquisite 
sharpness ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Consequently the microscopical representation is to be 
thought that which best sets forth the real nature of the thing, or 
what it is in itself. The colours, therefore, by it perceived are more 
genuine and real than those perceived otherwise. 

Hyl. I confess there is something in what you say. 

Phil. Besides, it is not only possible but manifest, that there 
actually are animals whose eyes are by nature framed to perceive 
those things which by reason of their minuteness escape our sight. 
What think you of those inconceivably small animals perceived by 
glasses? must we suppose they are all stark blind? Or, in case they 
see, can it be imagined their sight hath not the same use in preserving 
their bodies from injuries, which appears in that of all other animals? 
And if it hath, is it not evident they must see particles less than their 
own bodies; which will present them with a far different view in 
each object from that which strikes our senses? Even our own eyes 
do not always represent objects to us after the same manner. In the 
jaundice every one knows that all things seem yellow. Is it not there- 
fore highly probable those animals in whose eyes we discern a very 
different texture from that of ours, and whose bodies abound with 
different humours, do not see the same colours in every object that 
we do? From all which, should it not seem to follow that all col- 
ours are equally apparent, and that none of those which we perceive 
are really inherent in any outward object? 

Hyl. It should. 

Phil. The point will be past all doubt, if you consider that, in case 
colours were real properties or affections inherent in external bodies, 



FIRST DIALOGUE 205 

they could admit of no alteration without some change wrought in 
the very bodies themselves: but, is it not evident from what hath 
been said that, upon the use of microscopes, upon a change happening 
in the humours of the eye, or a variation of distance, without any 
manner of real alteration in the thing itself, the colours of any object 
are either changed, or totally disappear? Nay, all other circum- 
stances remaining the same, change but the situation of some objects, 
and they shall present different colours to the eye. The same thing 
happens upon viewing an object in various degrees of light. And 
what is more known than that the same bodies appear differently 
coloured by candle-light from what they do in the open day ? Add 
to these the experiment of a prism which, separating the heteroge- 
neous rays of light, alters the colour of any object, and will cause the 
whitest to appear of a deep blue or red to the naked eye. And now 
tell me whether you are still of opinion that every body hath its true 
real colour inhering in it; and, if you think it hath, I would fain 
know farther from you, what certain distance and position of the 
object, what peculiar texture and formation of the eye, what degree 
or kind of light is necessary for ascertaining that true colour, and 
distinguishing it from apparent ones. 

Hyl. I own myself entirely satisfied, that they are all equally ap- 
parent, and that there is no such thing as colour really inhering in 
external bodies, but that it is altogether in the light. And what con- 
firms me in this opinion is, that in proportion to the light colours 
are still more or less vivid; and if there be no light, then are there no 
colours perceived. Besides, allowing there are colours on external 
objects, yet, how is it possible for us to perceive them? For no ex- 
ternal body affects the mind, unless it acts first on our organs of 
sense. But the only action of bodies is motion; and motion cannot be 
communicated otherwise than by impulse. A distant object therefore 
cannot act on the eye; nor consequently make itself or its properties 
perceivable to the soul. Whence it plainly follows that it is imme- 
diately some contiguous substance, which, operating on the eye, occa- 
sions a perception of colours: and such is light. 

Phil. How! is light then a substance? 

Hyl. I tell you, Philonous, external light is nothing but a thin 
fluid substance, whose minute particles being agitated with a brisk 



206 GEORGE BERKELEY 

motion, and in various manners reflected from the different surfaces 
of outward objects to the eyes, communicate different motions to the 
optic nerves; which, being propagated to the brain, cause therein 
various impressions; and these are attended with the sensations of 
red, blue, yellow, &c. 

Phil. It seems then the light doth no more than shake the optic 
nerves. 

HyL Nothing else. 

Phil. And consequent to each particular motion of the nerves, 
the mind is affected with a sensation, which is some particular colour. 

HyL Right. 

Phil. And these sensations have no existence without the mind. 

HyL They have not. 

Phil. How then do you affirm that colours are in the light; since 
by light you understand a corporeal substance external to the mind ? 

HyL Light and colours, as immediately perceived by us, I grant 
cannot exist without the mind. But in themselves they are only the 
motions and configurations of certain insensible particles of matter. 

Phil. Colours then, in the vulgar sense, or taken for the immediate 
objects of sight, cannot agree to any but a perceiving substance. 

HyL That is what I say. 

Phil. Well then, since you give up the point as to those sensible 
qualities which are alone thought colours by all mankind beside, 
you may hold what you please with regard to those invisible ones of 
the philosophers. It is not my business to dispute about them; only I 
would advise you to bethink yourself, whether, considering the in- 
quiry we are upon, it be prudent for you to affirm the red and 
blue which we see are not real colours, but certain unknown motions 
and figures which no man ever did or can see are truly so. Are not 
these shocking notions, and are not they subject to as many ridicu- 
lous inferences, as those you were obliged to renounce before in 
the case of sounds ? 

HyL I frankly own, Philonous, that it is in vain to stand out any 
longer. Colours, sounds, tastes, in a word all those termed secondary 
qualities, have certainly no existence without the mind. But by this 
acknowledgment I must not be supposed to derogate anything from 



FIRST DIALOGUE 207 

the reality of Matter, or external objects; seeing it is no more than 
several philosophers maintain, who nevertheless are the farthest 
imaginable from denying Matter. For the clearer understanding of 
this, you must know sensible qualities are by philosophers divided 
into Primary and Secondary. The former are Extension, Figure, 
Solidity, Gravity, Motion, and Rest; and these they hold exist really 
in bodies. The latter are those above enumerated; or, briefly, all 
sensible qualities beside the Primary; which they assert are only so 
many sensations or ideas existing nowhere but in the mind. But all 
this, I doubt not, you are apprised of. For my part, I have been a 
long time sensible there was such an opinion current among philos- 
ophers, but was never thoroughly convinced of its truth until now. 

Phil. You are still then of opinion that extension and figures are 
inherent in external unthinking substances? 

Hyl. I am. 

PhiL But what if the same arguments which are brought against 
Secondary Qualities will hold good against these also? 

Hyl. Why then I shall be obliged to think, they too exist only in 
the mind. 

Phil. Is it your opinion the very figure and extension which you 
perceive by sense exist in the outward object or material substance? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Have all other animals as good grounds to think the same 
of the figure and extension which they see and feel ? 

Hyl. Without doubt, if they have any thought at all. 

Phil. Answer me, Hylas. Think you the senses were bestowed 
upon all animals for their preservation and well-being in life? or 
were they given to men alone for this end ? 

Hyl. I make no question but they have the same use in all 
other animals. 

Phil. If so, is it not necessary they should be enabled by them to 
perceive their own limbs, and those bodies which are capable of 
harming them? 

Hyl. Certainly. 

Phil. A mite therefore must be supposed to see his own foot, and 
things equal or even less than it, as bodies of some considerable 



2O8 GEORGE BERKELEY 

dimension; though at the same time they appear to you scarce dis- 
cernible, or at best as so many visible points? 

Hyl. I cannot deny it. 

Phil. And to creatures less than the mite they will seem yet larger ? 

Hyl. They will. 

Phil. Insomuch that what you can hardly discern will to another 
extremely minute animal appear as some huge mountain ? 

Hyl. All this I grant. 

Phil. Can one and the same thing be at the same time in itself of 
different dimensions? 

Hyl. That were absurd to imagine. 

Phil. But, from what you have laid down it follows that both the 
extension by you perceived, and that perceived by the mite itself, as 
likewise all those perceived by lesser animals, are each of them the 
true extension of the mite's foot; that is to say, by your own prin- 
ciples you are led into an absurdity. 

Hyl. There seems to be some difficulty in the point. 

Phil. Again, have you not acknowledged that no real inherent 
property of any object can be changed without some change in the 
thing itself? 

Hyl. I have. 

Phil. But, as we approach to or recede from an object, the visible 
extension varies, being at one distance ten or a hundred times greater 
than another. Doth it not therefore follow from hence likewise that 
it is not really inherent in the object? 

Hyl. I own I am at a loss what to think. 

Phil. Your judgment will soon be determined, if you will venture 
to think as freely concerning this quality as you have done concern- 
ing the rest. Was it not admitted as a good argument, that neither 
heat nor cold was in the water, because it seemed warm to one hand 
and cold to the other? 

Hyl. It was. 

Phil. Is it not the very same reasoning to conclude, there is no 
extension or figure in an object, because to one eye it shall seem little, 
smooth, and round, when at the same time it appears to the other, 
great, uneven, and regular ? 

Hyl. The very same. But does this latter fact ever happen? 



FIRST DIALOGUE 2O<) 

Phil. You may at any time make the experiment, by looking with 
one eye bare, and with the other through a microscope. 

Hyl. I know not how to maintain it; and yet I am loath to give up 
extension, I see so many odd consequences following upon such a 
concession. 

Phil. Odd, say you? After the concessions already made, I hope 
you will stick at nothing for its oddness. [^But, on the other hand, 
should it not seem very odd, if the general reasoning which includes 
all other sensible qualities did not also include extension ? If it be al- 
lowed that no idea, nor anything like an idea, can exist in an unper- 
ceiving substance, then surely it follows that no figure, or mode 
of extension, which we can either perceive, or imagine, or have any 
idea of, can be really inherent in Matter; not to mention the peculiar 
difficulty there must be in conceiving a material substance, prior to 
and distinct from extension to be the substratum of extension. Be 
the sensible quality what it will figure, or sound, or colour, it seems 
alike impossible it should subsist in that which doth not perceive it.] 

Hyl. I give up the point for the present, reserving still a right to 
retract my opinion, in case I shall hereafter discover any false step 
in my progress to it. 

Phil. That is a right you cannot be denied. Figures and extension 
being despatched, we proceed next to motion. Can a real motion in 
any external body be at the same time very swift and very slow? 

Hyl. It cannot. 

Phil. Is not the motion of a body swift in a reciprocal proportion 
to the time it takes up in describing any given space ? Thus a body 
that describes a mile in an hour moves three times faster than it 
would in case it described only a mile in three hours. 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. And is not time measured by the succession of ideas in our 
minds ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And is it not possible ideas should succeed one another twice 
as fast in your mind as they do in mine, or in that of some spirit of 
another kind? 

Hyl. I own it. 

1 What follows, within brackets, is not contained in the first and second editions. 



2IO GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. Consequently the same body may to another seem to per- 
form its motion over any space in half the time that it doth to you. 
And the same reasoning will hold as to any other proportion : that is 
to say, according to your principles (since the motions perceived are 
both really in the object) it is possible one and the same body shall 
be really moved the same way at once, both very swift and very slow. 
How is this consistent either with common sense, or with what you 
just now granted? 

Hyl. I have nothing to say to it. 

Phil. Then as for solidity; either you do not mean any sensible 
quality by that word, and so it is beside our inquiry : or if you do, it 
must be either hardness or resistance. But both the one and the 
other are plainly relative to our senses: it being evident that what 
seems hard to one animal may appear soft to another, who hath 
greater force and firmness of limbs. Nor is it less plain that the 
resistance I feel is not in the body. 

Hyl. I own the very sensation of resistance, which is all you 
immediately perceive, is not in the body; but the cause of that sensa- 
tion is. 

Phil. But the causes of our sensations are not things immediately 
perceived, and therefore are not sensible. This point I thought had 
been already determined. 

Hyl. I own it was; but you will pardon me if I seem a little em- 
barrassed: I know not how to quit my old notions. 

Phil. To help you out, do but consider that if extension be once 
acknowledged to have no existence without the mind, the same must 
necessarily be granted of motion, solidity, and gravity; since they 
all evidently suppose extension. It is therefore superfluous to inquire 
particularly concerning each of them. In denying extension, you have 
denied them all to have any real existence. 

Hyl. I wonder, Philonous, if what you say be true, why those 
philosophers who deny the Secondary Qualities any real existence 
should yet attribute it to the Primary. If there is no difference be- 
tween them, how can this be accounted for? 

Phil. It is not my business to account for every opinion of the 
philosophers. But, among other reasons which may be assigned for 
this, it seems probable that pleasure and pain being rather annexed to 



FIRST DIALOGUE 211 

the former than the latter may be one. Heat and cold, tastes and 
smells, have something more vividly pleasing or disagreeable than 
the ideas of extension, figure, and motion affect us with. And, it 
being too visibly absurd to hold that pain or pleasure can be in an 
unperceiving substance, men are more easily weaned from believing 
the external existence of the Secondary than the Primary Qualities. 
You will be satisfied there is something in this, if you recollect the 
difference you made between an intense and more moderate degree 
of heat; allowing the one a real existence, while you denied it to the 
other. But, after all, there is no rational ground for that distinction; 
for, surely an indifferent sensation is as truly a sensation as one more 
pleasing or painful; and consequently should not any more than they 
be supposed to exist in an unthinking subject. 

Hyl. It is just come into my head, Philonous, that I have some- 
where heard of a distinction between absolute and sensible extension. 
Now, though it be acknowledged that great and small, consisting 
merely in the relation which other extended beings have to the parts 
of our own bodies, do not really inhere in the substances themselves; 
yet nothing obliges us to hold the same with regard to absolute exten- 
sion, which is something abstracted from great and small, from this 
or that particular magnitude or figure. So likewise as to motion; 
swift and slow are altogether relative to the succession of ideas in our 
own minds. But, it doth not follow, because those modifications of 
motion exist not without the mind, that therefore absolute motion 
abstracted from them doth not. 

Phil. Pray what is it that distinguishes one motion, or one part 
of extension, from another? Is it not something sensible, as some 
degree of swiftness or slowness, some certain magnitude or figure 
peculiar to each? 

Hyl. I think so. 

Phil. These qualities, therefore, stripped of all sensible properties, 
are without all specific and numerical differences, as the schools 
call them. 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. That is to say, they are extension in general, and motion in 
general. 

Hyl. Let it be so. 



212 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. But it is a universally received maxim that Everything which 
exists is particular. How then can motion in general, or extension 
in general, exist in any corporeal substance? 

Hyl. I will take time to solve your difficulty. 

Phil. But I think the point may be speedily decided. Without 
doubt you can tell whether you are able to frame this or that idea. 
Now I am content to put our dispute on this issue. If you can frame 
in your thoughts a distinct abstract idea of motion or extension, 
divested of all those sensible modes, as swift and slow, great and 
small, round and square, and the like, which are acknowledged to 
exist only in the mind, I will then yield the point you contend for. 
But if you cannot, it will be unreasonable on your side to insist any 
longer upon what you have no notion of. 

Hyl. To confess ingenuously, I cannot. 

Phil. Can you even separate the ideas of extension and motion 
from the ideas of all those qualities which they who make the dis- 
tinction term secondary? 

Hyl. What! is it not an easy matter to consider extension and mo- 
tion by themselves, abstracted from all other sensible qualities ? Pray 
how do the mathematicians treat of them ? 

Phil. I acknowledge, Hylas, it is not difficult to form general 
propositions and reasonings about those qualities, without mention- 
ing any other; and, in this sense, to consider or treat of them ab- 
stractedly. But, how doth it follow that, because I can pronounce 
the word motion by itself, I can form the idea of it in my mind ex- 
clusive of body ? or, because theorems may be made of extension and 
figures, without any mention of great or small, or any other sensible 
mode or quality, that therefore it is possible such an abstract idea of 
extension, without any particular size or figure, or sensible quality 2 , 
should be distinctly formed, and apprehended by the mind ? Mathe- 
maticians treat of quantity, without regarding what other sensible 
qualities it is attended with, as being altogether indifferent to their 
demonstrations. But, when laying aside the words, they contemplate 
the bare ideas, I believe you will find, they are not the pure 
abstracted ideas of extension. 

2 'Size or figure, or sensible quality' 'size, colour, &c,' in the first and second 
editions. 



FIRST DIALOGUE 213 

Hyl. But what say you to pure intellect? May not abstracted 
ideas be framed by that faculty ? 

Phil. Since I cannot frame abstract ideas at all, it is plain I can- 
not frame them by the help of pure intellect; whatsoever faculty you 
understand by those words. Besides, not to inquire into the nature of 
pure intellect and its spiritual objects, as virtue, reason, God, or the 
like, thus much seems manifest that sensible things are only to be 
perceived by sense, or represented by the imagination. Figures, 
therefore, and extension, being originally perceived by sense, do not 
belong to pure intellect : but, for your farther satisfaction, try if you 
can frame the idea of any figure, abstracted from all particularities of 
size, or even from other sensible qualities. 

Hyl. Let me think a little I do not find that I can. 

Phil. And can you think it possible that should really exist in 
nature which implies a repugnancy in its conception ? 

Hyl. By no means. 

Phil. Since therefore it is impossible even for the mind to disunite 
the ideas of extension and motion from all other sensible qualities, 
doth it not follow, that where the one exist there necessarily the other 
exist likewise? 

Hyl. It should seem so. 

Phil. Consequently, the very same arguments which you admitted 
as conclusive against the Secondary Qualities are, without any farther 
application of force, against the Primary too. Besides, if you will 
trust your senses, is it not plain all sensible qualities coexist, or to them 
appear as being in the same place ? Do they ever represent a motion, 
or figure, as being divested of all other visible and tangible qualities ? 

Hyl. You need say no more on this head. I am free to own, if 
there be no secret error or oversight in our proceedings hitherto, 
that all sensible qualities are alike to be denied existence without the 
mind. But, my fear is that I have been too liberal in my former 
concessions, or overlooked some fallacy or other. In short, I did not 
take time to think. 

Phil. For that matter, Hylas, you may take what time you please 
in reviewing the progress of our inquiry. You are at liberty to re- 
cover any slips you might have made, or offer whatever you have 
omitted which makes for your first opinion. 



214 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. One great oversight I take to be this that I did not suffi- 
ciently distinguish the object from the sensation. Now, though this 
latter may not exist without the mind, yet it will not thence follow 
that the former cannot. 

Phil. What object do you mean? the object of the senses? 

Hyl. The same. 

Phil. It is then immediately perceived? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Make me to understand the difference between what is im- 
mediately perceived and a sensation. 

Hyl. The sensation I take to be an act of the mind perceiving; 
besides which, there is something perceived; and this I call the object. 
For example, there is red and yellow on that tulip. But then the act 
of perceiving those colours is in me only, and not in the tulip. 

Phil. What tulip do you speak of? Is it that which you see? 

Hyl. The same. 

Phil. And what do you see beside colour, figure, and extension ? 

Hyl. Nothing. 

Phil. What you would say then is that the red and yellow are 
coexistent with the extension; is it not? 

Hyl. That is not all; I would say they have a real existence with- 
out the mind, in some unthinking substance. 

Phil. That the colours are really in the tulip which I see is mani- 
fest. Neither can it be denied that this tulip may exist independent 
of your mind or mine; but, that any immediate object of the senses 
that is, any idea, or combination of ideas should exist in an unthink- 
ing substance, or exterior to all minds, is in itself an evident contra- 
diction. Nor can I imagine how this follows from what you said 
just now, to wit, that the red and yellow were on the tulip you saw, 
since you do not pretend to see that unthinking substance. 

Hyl. You have an artful way, Philonous, of diverting our inquiry 
from the subject. 

Phil. I see you have no mind to be pressed that way. To return 
then to your distinction between sensation and object; if I take you 
right, you distinguish in every perception two things, the one an 
action of the mind, the other not. 

Hyl. True. 



FIRST DIALOGUE 215 

Phil. And this action cannot exist in, or belong to, any unthink- 
ing thing; but, whatever beside is implied in a perception may? 

HyL That is my meaning. 

Phil. So that if there was a perception without any act of the mind, 
it were possible such a perception should exist in an unthinking sub- 
stance ? 

Hyl. I grant it. But it is impossible there should be such a per- 
ception. 

Phil. When is the mind said to be active? 

HyL When it produces, puts an end to, or changes, anything. 

Phil. Can the mind produce, discontinue, or change anything, 
but by an act of the will ? 

HyL It cannot. 

Phil. The mind therefore is to be accounted active in its percep- 
tions so far forth as volition is included in them ? 

HyL It is. 

Phil. In plucking this flower I am active; because I do it by the 
motion of my hand, which was consequent upon my volition; so like- 
wise in applying it to my nose. But is either of these smelling ? 

HyL No. 

Phil. I act too in drawing the air through my nose; because my 
breathing so rather than otherwise is the effect of my volition. But 
neither can this be called smelling: for, if it were, I should smell every 
time I breathed in that manner ? 

HyL True. 

Phil. Smelling then is somewhat consequent to all this ? 

HyL It is. 

Phil. But I do not find my will concerned any farther. What- 
ever more there is as that I perceive such a particular smell, or any 
smell at all this is independent of my will, and therein I am alto- 
gether passive. Do you find it otherwise with you, Hylas? 

HyL No, the very same. 

Phil. Then, as to seeing, is it not in your power to open your 
eyes, or keep them shut; to turn them this or that way? 

HyL Without doubt. 

Phil. But, doth it in like manner depend on your will that in look- 
ing on this flower you perceive white rather than any other colour ? 



2l6 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Or, directing your open eyes towards yonder part of the heaven, can 
you avoid seeing the sun? Or is light or darkness the effect of your 
volition ? 

Hyl. No, certainly. 

Phil. You are then in these respects altogether passive? 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. Tell me now, whether seeing consists in perceiving light 
and colours, or in opening and turning the eyes? 

Hyl. Without doubt, in the former. 

Phil. Since therefore you are in the very perception of light and 
colours altogether passive, what is become of that action you were 
speaking of as an ingredient in every sensation? And, doth it not 
follow from your own concessions, that the perception of light and 
colours, including no action in it, may exist in an unperceiving sub- 
stance ? And is not this a plain contradiction ? 

Hyl. I know not what to think of it. 

Phil. Besides, since you distinguish the active and passive in every 
perception, you must do it in that of pain. But how is it possible 
that pain, be it as little active as you please, should exist in an unper- 
ceiving substance? In short, do but consider the point, and then con- 
fess ingenuously, whether light and colours, tastes, sounds, &c. are 
not all equally passions or sensations in the soul. You may indeed 
call them external objects, and give them in words what subsistence 
you please. But, examine your own thoughts, and then tell me 
whether it be not as I say ? 

Hyl. I acknowledge, Philonous, that, upon a fair observation of 
what passes in my mind, I can discover nothing else but that I am a 
thinking being, affected with variety of sensations; neither is it possi- 
ble to conceive how a sensation should exist in an unperceiving sub- 
stance. But then, on the other hand, when I look on sensible things 
in a different view, considering them as so many modes and qualities, 
I find it necessary to suppose a material substratum, without which 
they cannot be conceived to exist. 

Phil. Material substratum call you it? Pray, by which of your 
senses came you acquainted with that being? 

Hyl. It is not itself sensible; its modes and qualities only being 
perceived by the senses. 



FIRST DIALOGUE 21 7 

Phil. I presume then it was by reflexion and reason you obtained 
the idea of it? 

Hyl. I do not pretend to any proper positive idea of it. However, 
I conclude it exists, because qualities cannot be conceived to exist 
without a support. 

Phil. It seems then you have only a relative notion of it, or that 
you conceive it not otherwise than by conceiving the relation it bears 
to sensible qualities? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. Be pleased therefore to let me know wherein that relation 
consists. 

Hyl. Is it not sufficiently expressed in the term substratum, or sub- 
stance? 

Phil. If so, the word substratum should import that it is spread 
under the sensible qualities or accidents ? 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. And consequently under extension? 

Hyl. I own it. 

Phil. It is therefore somewhat in its own nature entirely distinct 
from extension? 

Hyl. I tell you, extension is only a mode, and Matter is something 
that supports modes. And is it not evident the thing supported i? 
different from the thing supporting ? 

Phil. So that something distinct from, and exclusive of, extension 
is supposed to be the substratum of extension? 

Hyl. Just so. 

Phil. Answer me, Hylas. Can a thing be spread without exten- 
sion? or is not the idea of extension necessarily included in spread- 
ing? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Whatsoever therefore you suppose spread under anything 
must have in itself an extension distinct from the extension of that 
thing under which it is spread? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Consequently, every corporeal substance, being the sub- 
stratum of extension, must have in itself another extension, by which 
it is qualified to be a substratum: and so on to infinity. And I ask 
whether this be not absurd in itself, and repugnant to what you 



21 8 GEORGE BERKELEY 

granted just now, to wit, that the substratum was something distinct 
from and exclusive of extension ? 

Hyl. Aye but, Philonous, you take me wrong. I do not mean that 
Matter is spread in a gross literal sense under extension. The word 
substratum is used only to express in general the same thing with 
substance. 

Phil. Well then, let us examine the relation implied in the term 
substance. Is it not that it stands under accidents? 

Hyl. The very same. 

Phil. But, that one thing may stand under or support another, 
must it not be extended ? 

Hyl. It must. 

Phil. Is not therefore this supposition liable to the same absurdity 
with the former? 

Hyl. You still take things in a strict literal sense. That is not fair, 
Philonous. 

Phil. I am not for imposing any sense on your words: you are at 
liberty to explain them as you please. Only, I beseech you, make me 
understand something by them. You tell me Matter supports or 
stands under accidents. How! is it as your legs support your body? 

Hyl. No; that is the literal sense. 

Phil. Pray let me know any sense, literal or not literal, that you 
understand it in. How long must I wait for an answer, Hylas ? 

Hyl. I declare I know not what to say. I once thought I under- 
stood well enough what was meant by Matter's supporting accidents. 
But now, the more I think on it the less can I comprehend it: in 
short I find that I know nothing of it. 

Phil. It seems then you have no idea at all, neither relative nor 
positive, of Matter; you know neither what it is in itself, nor what 
relation it bears to accidents? 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. 

Phil. And yet you asserted that you could not conceive how quali- 
ties or accidents should really exist, without conceiving at the same 
time a material support of them? 

Hyl. I did. 

Phil. That is to say, when you conceive the real existence of quali- 



FIRST DIALOGUE 219 

ties, you do withal conceive Something which you cannot conceive ? 

Hyl. It was wrong, I own. But still I fear there is some fallacy or 
other. Pray what think you of this? It is just come into my head 
that the ground of all our mistake lies in your treating of each quality 
by itself. Now, I grant that each quality cannot singly subsist with- 
out the mind. Colour cannot without extension, neither can figure 
without some other sensible quality. But, as the several qualities 
united or blended together form entire sensible things, nothing hin- 
ders why such things may not be supposed to exist without the mind. 

Phil. Either, Hylas, you are jesting, or have a very bad memory. 
Though indeed we went through all the qualities by name one after 
another, yet my arguments or rather your concessions, nowhere 
tended to prove that the Secondary Qualities did not subsist each 
alone by itself; but, that they were not at all without the mind. In- 
deed, in treating of figure and motion we concluded they could not 
exist without the mind, because it was impossible even in thought 
to separate them from all secondary qualities, so as to conceive 
them existing by themselves. But then this was not the only argu- 
ment made use of upon that occasion. But (to pass by all that hath 
been hitherto said, and reckon it for nothing, if you will have it so) 
I am content to put the whole upon this issue. If you can conceive it 
possible for any mixture or combination of qualities, or any sensible 
object whatever, to exist without the mind, then I will grant it 
actually to be so. 

Hyl. If it comes to that the point will soon be decided. What more 
easy than to conceive a tree or house existing by itself, independent 
of, and unperceived by, any mind whatsoever? I do at this present 
time conceive them existing after that manner. 

Phil. How say you, Hylas, can you see a thing which is at the 
same time unseen? 

Hyl. No, that were a contradiction. 

Phil. Is it not as great a contradiction to talk of conceiving a thing 
which is unconceived? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. The tree or house therefore which you think of is conceived 
by you? 



22O GEORGE BERKELEY 

HyL How should it be otherwise ? 

Phil. And what is conceived is surely in the mind ? 

HyL Without question, that which is conceived is in the mind. 

Phil. How then came you to say, you conceived a house or tree 
existing independent and out of all minds whatsoever? 

HyL That was I own an oversight; but stay, let me consider what 
led me into it. It is a pleasant mistake enough. As I was thinking 
of a tree in a solitary place, where no one was present to see it, me- 
thought that was to conceive a tree as existing unperceived or un- 
thought of; not considering that I myself conceived it all the while. 
But now I plainly see that all I can do is to frame ideas in my own 
mind. I may indeed conceive in my own thoughts the idea of a 
tree, or a house, or a mountain, but that is all. And this is far from 
proving that I can conceive them existing out of the minds of all 
Spirits. 

Phil. You acknowledge then that you cannot possibly conceive 
how any one corporeal sensible thing should exist otherwise than in 
the mind ? 

HyL I do. 

Phil. And yet you will earnestly contend for the truth of that 
which you cannot so much as conceive ? 

HyL I profess I know not what to think; but still there are some 
scruples remain with me. Is it not certain I see things at a distance? 
Do we not perceive the stars and moon, for example, to be a great 
way off? Is not this, I say, manifest to the senses? 

Phil. Do you not in a dream too perceive those or the like objects? 

HyL I do. 

Phil. And have they not then the same appearance of being dis- 
tant? 

HyL They have. 

Phil. But you do not thence conclude the apparitions in a dream 
to be without the mind? 

HyL By no means. 

Phil. You ought not therefore to conclude that sensible objects 
are without the mind, from their appearance, or manner wherein 
they are perceived. 



FIRST DIALOGUE 221 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. But doth not my sense deceive me in 
those cases ? 

Phil. By no means. The idea or thing which you immediately 
perceive, neither sense nor reason informs you that it actually exists 
without the mind. By sense you only know that you are affected with 
such certain sensations of light and colours, &c. And these you will 
not say are without the mind. 

Hyl. True: but, beside all that, do you not think the sight sug- 
gests something of outness or distance? 

Phil. Upon approaching a distant object, do the visible size and 
figure change perpetually, or do they appear the same at all distances ? 

Hyl. They are in a continual change. 

Phil. Sight therefore doth not suggest, or any way inform you, 
that the visible object you immediately perceive exists at a distance, 
or will be perceived when you advance farther onward; there being 
a continued series of visible objects succeeding each other during the 
whole time of your approach. 

Hyl. It doth not; but still I know, upon seeing an object, what 
object I shall perceive after having passed over a certain distance: no 
matter whether it be exactly the same or no: there is still something 
of distance suggested in the case. 

Phil. Good Hylas, do but reflect a little on the point, and then 
tell me whether there be any more in it than this : from the ideas you 
actually perceive by sight, you have by experience learned to col- 
lect what other ideas you will (according to the standing order of 
nature) be affected with, after such a certain succession of time and 
motion. 

Hyl. Upon the whole, I take it to be nothing else. 

Phil. Now, is it not plain that if we suppose a man born blind was 
on a sudden made to see, he could at first have no experience of 
what may be suggested by sight? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. He would not then, according to you, have any notion of 
distance annexed to the things he saw; but would take them for a 
new set of sensations, existing only in his mind? 

Hyl. It is undeniable. 



222 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. But, to make it still more plain : is not distance a line turned 
endwise to the eye ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. And can a line so situated be perceived by sight ? 

Hyl. It cannot. 

Phil. Doth it not therefore follow that distance is not properly and 
immediately perceived by sight? 

Hyl. It should seem so. 

Phil. Again, is it your opinion that colours are at a distance ? 

Hyl. It must be acknowledged they are only in the mind. 

Phil. But do not colours appear to the eye as coexisting in the 
same place with extension and figures? 

Hyl. They do. 

Phil. How can you then conclude from sight that figures exist 
without, when you acknowledge colours do not; the sensible appear- 
ance being the very same with regard to both ? 

Hyl. I know not what to answer. 

Phil. But, allowing that distance was truly and immediately per- 
ceived by the mind, yet it would not thence follow it existed out of 
the mind. For, whatever is immediately perceived is an idea : and can 
any idea exist out of the mind? 

Hyl. To suppose that were absurd: but, inform me, Philonous, 
can we perceive or know nothing beside our ideas ? 

Phil. As for the rational deducing of causes from effects, that is 
beside our inquiry. And, by the senses you can best tell whether you 
perceive anything which is not immediately perceived. And I ask 
you, whether the things immediately perceived are other than your 
own sensations or ideas? You have indeed more than once, in the 
course of this conversation, declared yourself on those points; but you 
seem, by this last question, to have departed from what you then 
thought. 

Hyl. To speak the truth, Philonous, I think there are two kinds 
of objects: the one perceived immediately, which are likewise called 
ideas; the other are real things or external objects, perceived by the 
mediation of ideas, which are their images and representations. Now, 
I own ideas do not exist without the mind; but the latter sort of ob- 



FIRST DIALOGUE 223 

jects do. I am sorry I did not think o this distinction sooner; it 
would probably have cut short your discourse. 

Phil. Are those external objects perceived by sense or by some 
other faculty? 

Hyl. They are perceived by sense. 

Phil. How! Is there any thing perceived by sense which is not 
immediately perceived ? 

Hyl. Yes, Philonous, in some sort there is. For example, when I 
look on a picture or statue of Julius Caesar, I may be said after a 
manner to perceive him (though not immediately) by my senses. 

Phil. It seems then you will have our ideas, which alone are im- 
mediately perceived, to be pictures of external things : and that these 
also are perceived by sense, inasmuch as they have a conformity or re- 
semblance to our ideas? 

Hyl. That is my meaning. 

Phil. And, in the same way that Julius Caesar, in himself invisible, 
is nevertheless perceived by sight; real things, in themselves imper- 
ceptible, are perceived by sense. 

Hyl. In the very same. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, when you behold the picture of Julius 
Caesar, do you see with your eyes any more than some colours and 
figures, with a certain symmetry and composition of the whole ? 

Hyl. Nothing else. 

Phil. And would not a man who had never known anything of 
Julius Caesar see as much? 

Hyl. He would. 

Phil. Consequently he hath his sight, and the use of it, in as per- 
fect a degree as you? 

Hyl. I agree with you. 

Phil. Whence comes it then that your thoughts are directed to the 
Roman emperor, and his are not ? This cannot proceed from the sen- 
sations or ideas of sense by you then perceived; since you acknowl- 
edge you have no advantage over him in that respect. It should 
seem therefore to proceed from reason and memory: should it 
not? 

Hyl. It should. 



224 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. Consequently, it will not follow from that instance that any- 
thing is perceived by sense which is not immediately perceived. 
Though I grant we may, in one acceptation, be said to perceive sensi- 
ble things mediately by sense: that is, when, from a frequently per- 
ceived connexion, the immediate perception of ideas by one sense 
suggests to the mind others, perhaps belonging to another sense, which 
are wont to be connected with them. For instance, when I hear a 
coach drive along the streets, immediately I perceive only the sound; 
but, from the experience I have had that such a sound is connected 
with a coach, I am said to hear the coach. It is nevertheless evident 
that, in truth and strictness, nothing can be heard but sound; and the 
coach is not then properly perceived by sense, but suggested from ex- 
perience. So likewise when we are said to see a red-hot bar of iron; 
the solidity and heat of the iron are not the objects of sight, but sug- 
gested to the imagination by the colour and figure which are properly 
perceived by that sense. In short, those things alone are actually and 
strictly perceived by any sense, which would have been perceived in 
case that same sense had then been first conferred on us. As for 
other things, it is plain they are only suggested to the mind by ex- 
perience, grounded on former perceptions. But, to return to your 
comparison of Caesar's picture, it is plain, if you keep to that, you 
must hold the real things, or archetypes of our ideas, are not per- 
ceived by sense, but by some internal faculty of the soul, as reason 
or memory. I would therefore fain know what arguments you can 
draw from reason for the existence of what you call real things or 
material objects. Or, whether you remember to have seen them 
formerly as they are in themselves; or, if you have heard or read of 
any one that did. 

Hyl. I see, Philonous, you are disposed to raillery; but that will 
never convince me. 

Phil. My aim is only to learn from you the way to come at the 
knowledge of material beings. Whatever we perceive is perceived 
immediately or mediately : by sense, or by reason and reflexion. But, 
as you have excluded sense, pray shew me what reason you have to 
believe their existence; or what medium you can possibly make use 
of to prove it, either to mine or your own understanding. 



FIRST DIALOGUE 225 

Hyl. To deal ingenuously, Philonous, now I consider the point, 
I do not find I can give you any good reason for it. But, thus much 
seems pretty plain, that it is at least possible such things may really 
exist. And, as long as there is no absurdity in supposing them, I am 
resolved to believe as I did, till you bring good reasons to the con- 
trary. 

Phil. What! Is it come to this, that you only believe the existence 
of material objects, and that your belief is founded barely on the 
possibility of its being true? Then you will have me bring reasons 
against it: though another would think it reasonable the proof should 
lie on him who holds the affirmative. And, after all, this very point 
which you are now resolved to maintain, without any reason, is in 
effect what you have more than once during this discourse seen good 
reason to give up. But, to pass over all this; if I understand you 
rightly, you say our ideas do not exist without the mind, but that 
they are copies, images, or representations, of certain originals 
that do? 

Hyl. You take me right. 

Phil. They are then like external things? 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. Have those things a stable and permanent nature, inde- 
pendent of our senses; or are they in a perpetual change, upon our 
producing any motions in our bodies suspending, exerting, or alter- 
ing, our faculties or organs of sense ? 

Hyl. Real things, it is plain, have a fixed and real nature, which 
remains the same notwithstanding any change in our senses, or in 
the posture and motion of our bodies; which indeed may affect the 
ideas in our minds, but it were absurd to think they had the same 
effect on things existing without the mind. 

Phil. How then is it possible that things perpetually fleeting and 
variable as our ideas should be copies or images of anything fixed 
and constant ? Or, in other words, since all sensible qualities, as size, 
figure, colour, &c., that is, our ideas, are continually changing, upon 
every alteration in the distance, medium, or instruments of sensation; 
how can any determinate material objects be properly represented or 
painted forth by several distinct things, each of which is so different 



226 GEORGE BERKELEY 

from and unlike the rest ? Or, if you say it resembles some one only 
of our ideas, how shall we be able to distinguish the true copy from 
all the false ones? 

Hyl. I profess, Philonous, I am at a loss. I know not what to say 
to this. 

Phil. But neither is this all. Which are material objects in them- 
selves perceptible or imperceptible? 

Hyl. Properly and immediately nothing can be perceived but 
ideas. All material things, therefore, are in themselves insensible, 
and to be perceived only by our ideas. 

Phil. Ideas then are sensible, and their archetypes or originals 
insensible? 

Hyl. Right. 

Phil. But how can that which is sensible be life that which is in- 
sensible? Can a real thing, in itself invisible, be like a colour; or a 
real thing, which is not audible, be like a sound? In a word, can 
anything be like a sensation or idea, but another sensation or idea? 

Hyl. I must own, I think not. 

Phil. Is it possible there should be any doubt on the point? Do 
you not perfectly know your own ideas ? 

Hyl. I know them perfectly; since what I do not perceive or know 
can be no part of my idea. 

Phil. Consider, therefore, and examine them, and then tell me if 
there be anything in them which can exist without the mind: or if 
you can conceive anything like them existing without the mind. 

Hyl. Upon inquiry, I find it is impossible for me to conceive or 
understand how anything but an idea can be like an idea. And it is 
most evident that no idea can exist without the mind. 

Phil. You are therefore, by your principles, forced to deny the 
reality of sensible things; since you made it to consist in an absolute 
existence exterior to the mind. That is to say, you are a downright 
sceptic. So I have gained my point, which was to shew your princi- 
ples led to Scepticism. 

Hyl. For the present I am, if not entirely convinced, at least 
silenced. 

Phil. I would fain know what more you would require in order to 
a perfect conviction. Have you not had the liberty of explaining 



FIRST DIALOGUE 227 

yourself all manner of ways ? Were any little slips in discourse laid 
hold and insisted on ? Or were you not allowed to retract or reinforce 
anything you had offered, as best served your purpose? Hath not 
everything you could say been heard and examined with all the fair- 
ness imaginable? In a word, have you not in every point been con- 
vinced out of your own mouth ? And, if you can at present discover 
any flaw in any of your former concessions, or think of any remain- 
ing subterfuge, any new distinction, colour, or comment whatsoever, 
why do you not produce it ? 

Hyl. A little patience, Philonous. I am at present so amazed to see 
myself ensnared, and as it were imprisoned in the labyrinths you 
have drawn me into, that on the sudden it cannot be expected I should 
find my way out. You must give me time to look about me and 
recollect myself. 

Phil. Hark; is not this the college bell? 

Hyl. It rings for prayers. 

Phil. We will go in then, if you please, and meet here again to- 
morrow morning. In the meantime, you may employ your thoughts 
on this morning's discourse, and try if you can find any fallacy in it, 
or invent any new means to extricate yourself. 

Hyl. Agreed. 



THE SECOND DIALOGUE 

"W~ TTYLAS. I beg your pardon, Philonous, for not meeting 

f m you sooner. All this morning my head was so rilled with 
JL JL. our late conversation that I had not leisure to think of 
the time of the day, or indeed of anything else. 

Philonous. I am glad you were so intent upon it, in hopes if there 
were any mistakes in your concessions, or fallacies in my reasonings 
from them, you will now discover them to me. 

Hyl. I assure you I have done nothing ever since I saw you but 
search after mistakes and fallacies, and, with that view, have minutely 
examined the whole series of yesterday's discourse: but all in vain, 
for the notions it led me into, upon review, appear still more clear 
and evident; and, the more I consider them, the more irresistibly do 
they force my assent. 

Phil. And is not this, think you, a sign that they are genuine, that 
they proceed from nature, and are conformable to right reason? 
Truth and beauty are in this alike, that the strictest survey sets them 
both oflf to advantage; while the false lustre of error and disguise 
cannot endure being reviewed, or too nearly inspected. 

Hyl. I own there is a great deal in what you say. Nor can any one 
be more entirely satisfied of the truth of those odd consequences, so 
long as I have in view the reasonings that lead to them. But, when 
these are out of my thoughts, there seems, on the other hand, some- 
thing so satisfactory, so natural and intelligible, in the modern way of 
explaining things that, I profess, I know not how to reject it. 

Phil. I know not what way you mean. 

Hyl. I mean the way of accounting for our sensations or ideas. 

Phil. How is that? 

Hyl. It is supposed the soul makes her residence in some part of 
the brain, from which the nerves take their rise, and are thence ex- 
tended to all parts of the body; and that outward objects, by the dif- 

228 



SECOND DIALOGUE 229 

ferent impressions they make on the organs of sense, communicate 
certain vibrative motions to the nerves; and these being filled with 
spirits propagate them to the brain or seat of the soul, which, accord- 
ing to the various impressions or traces thereby made in the brain, 
is variously affected with ideas. 

Phil. And call you this an explication of the manner whereby we 
are affected with ideas? 

Hyl. Why not, Philonous? Have you anything to object against 
it? 

Phil. I would first know whether I rightly understand your hypoth- 
esis. You make certain traces in the brain to be the causes or 
occasions of our ideas. Pray tell me whether by the brain you mean 
any sensible thing. 

Hyl. What else think you I could mean? 

Phil. Sensible things are all immediately perceivable; and those 
things which are immediately perceivable are ideas; and these exist 
only in the mind. Thus much you have, if I mistake not, long since 
agreed to. 

Hyl. I do not deny it. 

Phil. The brain therefore you speak of, being a sensible thing, 
exists only in the mind. Now, I would fain know whether you think 
it reasonable to suppose that one idea or thing existing in the mind 
occasions all other ideas. And, if you think so, pray how do you ac- 
count for the origin of that primary idea or brain itself? 

Hyl. I do not explain the origin of our ideas by that brain which 
is perceivable to sense this being itself only a combination of sensi- 
ble ideas but by another which I imagine. 

Phil. But are not things imagined as truly in the mind as things 
perceived ? 

Hyl. I must confess they are. 

Phil. It comes, therefore, to the same thing; and you have been 
all this while accounting for ideas by certain motions or impressions 
of the brain; that is, by some alterations in an idea, whether sensible 
or imaginable it matters not. 

Hyl. I begin to suspect my hypothesis. 

Phil. Besides spirits, all that we know or conceive are our own 
ideas. When, therefore, you say all ideas are occasioned by impressions 



23O GEORGE BERKELEY 

in the brain, do you conceive this brain or no ? If you do, then you 
talk of ideas imprinted in an idea causing that same idea, which is 
absurd. If you do not conceive it, you talk unintelligibly, instead of 
forming a reasonable hypothesis. 

Hyl. I now clearly see it was a mere dream. There is nothing 
in it. 

Phil. You need not be much concerned at it; for after all, this way 
of explaining things, as you called it, could never have satisfied any 
reasonable man. What connexion is there between a motion in the 
nerves, and the sensations of sound or colour in the mind ? Or how 
is it possible these should be the effect of that? 

Hyl. But I could never think it had so little in it as now it seems 
to have. 

Phil. Well then, are you at length satisfied that no sensible things 
have a real existence; and that you are in truth an arrant sceptic? 

Hyl. It is too plain to be denied. 

Phil. Look! are not the fields covered with a delightful verdure? 
Is there not something in the woods and groves, in the rivers and 
clear springs, that soothes, that delights, that transports the soul ? At 
the prospect of the wide and deep ocean, or some huge mountain 
whose top is lost in the clouds, or of an old gloomy forest, are not our 
minds filled with a pleasing horror? Even in rocks and deserts is 
there not an agreeable wildness ? How sincere a pleasure is it to be- 
hold the natural beauties of the earth! To preserve and renew our 
relish for them, is not the veil of night alternately drawn over her 
face, and doth she not change her dress with the seasons ? How aptly 
are the elements disposed! What variety and use [4n the meanest 
productions of nature] ! What delicacy, what beauty, what contriv- 
ance, in animal and vegetable bodies! How exquisitely are all things 
suited, as well to their particular ends, as to constitute opposite parts 
of the whole! And, while they mutually aid and support, do they not 
also set off and illustrate each other ? Raise now your thoughts from 
this ball of earth to all those glorious luminaries that adorn the high 
arch of heaven. The motion and situation of the planets, are they not 
admirable for use and order ? Were those (miscalled erratic) globes 
once known to stray, in their repeated journeys through the pathless 

1 'In stones and minerals' in first and second editions. 



SECOND DIALOGUE 23! 

void? Do they not measure areas round the sun ever proportioned 
to the times? So fixed, so immutable are the laws by which the 
unseen Author of nature actuates the universe. How vivid and radiant 
is the lustre of the fixed stars! How magnificent and rich that negli- 
gent profusion with which they appear to be scattered throughout the 
whole azure vault! Yet, if you take the telescope, it brings into your 
sight a new host of stars that escape the naked eye. Here they seem 
contiguous and minute, but to a nearer view immense orbs of light 
at various distances, far sunk in the abyss of space. Now you must 
call imagination to your aid. The feeble narrow sense cannot descry 
innumerable worlds revolving round the central fires; and in those 
worlds the energy of an all-perfect Mind displayed in endless forms. 
But, neither sense nor imagination are big enough to comprehend the 
boundless extent, with all its glittering furniture. Though the labour- 
ing mind exert and strain each power to its utmost reach, there still 
stands out ungrasped a surplusage immeasurable. Yet all the vast 
bodies that compose this mighty frame, how distant and remote so- 
ever, are by some secret mechanism, some Divine art and force, 
linked in a mutual dependence and intercourse with each other; 
even with this earth, which was almost slipt from my thoughts and 
lost in the crowd of worlds. Is not the whole system immense, beauti- 
ful, glorious beyond expression and beyond thought! What treat- 
ment, then, do those philosophers deserve, who would deprive these 
noble and delightful scenes of all reality? How should those Prin- 
ciples be entertained that lead us to think all the visible beauty of the 
creation a false imaginary glare? To be plain, can you expect this 
Scepticism of yours will not be thought extravagantly absurd by all 
men of sense? 

Hyl. Other men may think as they please; but for your part you 
have nothing to reproach me with. My comfort is, you are as much 
a sceptic as I am. 

Phil. There, Hylas, I must beg leave to differ from you. 

Hyl. What! Have you all along agreed to the premises, and 
do you now deny the conclusion, and leave me to maintain those 
paradoxes by myself which you led me into? This surely is not 
fair. 

Phil. I deny that I agreed with you in those notions that led to 
Scepticism. You indeed said the reality of sensible things consisted in 



232 GEORGE BERKELEY 

an absolute existence out of the minds of spirits, or distinct from their 
being perceived. And pursuant to this notion of reality, you are 
obliged to deny sensible things any real existence : that is, according 
to your own definition, you profess yourself a sceptic. But I neither 
said nor thought the reality of sensible things was to be defined after 
that manner. To me it is evident for the reasons you allow of, that 
sensible things cannot exist otherwise than in a mind or spirit. 
Whence I conclude, not that they have no real existence, but that, 
seeing they depend not on my thought, and have all existence dis- 
tinct from being perceived by me, there must be some other Mind 
wherein they exist. As sure, therefore, as the sensible world really 
exists, so sure is there an infinite omnipresent Spirit who contains 
and supports it. 

Hyl. What! This is no more than I and all Christians hold; nay, 
and all others too who believe there is a God, and that He knows 
and comprehends all things. 

Phil. Aye, but here lies the difference. Men commonly believe that 
all things are known or perceived by God, because they believe the 
being of a God; whereas I, on the other side, immediately and neces- 
sarily conclude the being of a God, because all sensible things must 
be perceived by Him. 

Hyl. But, so long as we all believe the same thing, what matter is 
it how we come by that belief? 

Phil. But neither do we agree in the same opinion. For philos- 
ophers, though they acknowledge all corporeal beings to be perceived 
by God, yet they attribute to them an absolute subsistence distinct 
from their being perceived by any mind whatever; which I do not. 
Besides, is there no difference between saying, There is a God, there- 
fore He perceives all things; and saying, Sensible things do really 
exist; and, if they really exist, they are necessarily perceived by an 
infinite Mind: therefore there is an infinite Mind or God? This fur- 
nishes you with a direct and immediate demonstration, from a most 
evident principle, of the being of a God. Divines and philosophers 
had proved beyond all controversy, from the beauty and usefulness 
of the several parts of the creation, that it was the workmanship of 
God. But that setting aside all help of astronomy and natural 
philosophy, all contemplation of the contrivance, order, and adjust- 



SECOND DIALOGUE 233 

ment of things an infinite Mind should be necessarily inferred from 
the bare existence of the sensible world, is an advantage to them only 
who have made this easy reflexion: that the sensible world is that 
which we perceive by our several senses; and that nothing is per- 
ceived by the senses beside ideas; and that no idea or archetype of an 
idea can exist otherwise than in a mind. You may now, without any 
laborious search into the sciences, without any subtlety of reason, or 
tedious length of discourse, oppose and baffle the most strenuous ad- 
vocate for Atheism. Those miserable refuges, whether in an eternal 
succession of unthinking causes and effects, or in a fortuitous con- 
course of atoms; those wild imaginations of Vanini, Hobbes, and 
Spinoza: in a word, the whole system of Atheism, is it not entirely 
overthrown, by this single reflexion on the repugnancy included in 
supposing the whole, or any part, even the most rude and shapeless, 
of the visible world, to exist without a mind ? Let any one of those 
abettors of impiety but look into his own thoughts, and there try if 
he can conceive how so much as a rock, a desert, a chaos, or confused 
jumble of atoms; how anything at all, either sensible or imaginable, 
can exist independent of a Mind, and he need go no farther to be 
convinced of his folly. Can anything be fairer than to put a dispute 
on such an issue, and leave it to a man himself to see if he can con- 
ceive, even in thought, what he holds to be true in fact, and from a 
notional to allow it a real existence? 

Hyl. It cannot be denied there is something highly serviceable to 
religion in what you advance. But do you not think it looks very 
like a notion entertained by some eminent moderns, of seeing all 
things in God? 

Phil. I would gladly know that opinion: pray explain it to me. 

Hyl. They conceive that the soul, being immaterial, is incapable 
of being united with material things, so as to perceive them in them- 
selves; but that she perceives them by her union with the substance 
of God, which, being spiritual, is therefore purely intelligible, or cap- 
able of being the immediate object of a spirit's thought. Besides the 
Divine essence contains in it perfections correspondent to each created 
being; and which are, for that reason, proper to exhibit or represent 
them to the mind. 

Phil. I do not understand how our ideas, which are things alto- 



234 GEORGE BERKELEY 

gather passive and inert, can be the essence, or any part (or like any 
part) of the essence or substance of God, who is an impassive, indi- 
visible, pure, active being. Many more difficulties and objections 
there are which occur at first view against this hypothesis; but I shall 
only add that it is liable to all the absurdities of the common hypoth- 
esis, in making a created world exist otherwise than in the mind of 
a Spirit. Besides all which it hath this peculiar to itself; that it makes 
that material world serve to no purpose. And, if it pass for a good 
argument against other hypotheses in the sciences, that they suppose 
Nature, or the Divine wisdom, to make something in vain, or do that 
by tedious roundabout methods which might have been performed 
in a much more easy and compendious way, what shall we think of 
that hypothesis which supposes the whole world made in vain ? 

Hyl. But what say you? Are not you too of opinion that we 
see all things in God? If I mistake not, what you advance comes 
near it. 

Phil. [ 2 Few men think; yet all have opinions. Hence men's 
opinions are superficial and confused. It is nothing strange that ten- 
ets which in themselves are ever so different, should nevertheless be 
confounded with each other, by those who do not consider them 
attentively. I shall not therefore be surprised if some men imagine 
that I run into the enthusiasm of Malebranche; though in truth I am 
very remote from it. He builds on the most abstract general ideas, 
which I entirely disclaim. He asserts an absolute external world, 
which I deny. He maintains that we are deceived by our senses, and 
know not the real natures or the true forms and figures of extended 
beings; of all which I hold the direct contrary. So that upon the 
whole there are no Principles more fundamentally opposite than his 
and mine. It must be owned that] I entirely agree with what the holy 
Scripture saith, 'That in God we live and move and have our being.' 
But that we see things in His essence, after the manner above set 
forth, I am far from believing. Take here in brief my meaning: It 
is evident that the things I perceive are my own ideas, and that no 
idea can exist unless it be in a mind: nor is it less plain that these ideas 
or things by me perceived, either themselves or their archetypes, exist 
independently of my mind, since I know myself not to be their 

2 The passage within brackets first appeared in the third edition. 



SECOND DIALOGUE 235 

author, it being out of my power to determine at pleasure what par- 
ticular ideas I shall be affected with upon opening my eyes or ears: 
they must therefore exist in some other Mind, whose Will it is they 
should be exhibited to me. The things, I say, immediately perceived 
are ideas or sensations, call them which you will. But how can any 
idea or sensation exist in, or be produced by, anything but a mind or 
spirit? This indeed is inconceivable. And to assert that which is 
inconceivable is to talk nonsense: is it not? 

Hyl. Without doubt. 

Phil. But, on the other hand, it is very conceivable that they should 
exist in and be produced by a spirit; since this is no more than I daily 
experience in myself, inasmuch as I perceive numberless ideas; and, 
by an act of my will, can form a great variety of them, and raise them 
up in my imagination: though, it must be confessed, these creatures 
of the fancy are not altogether so distinct, so strong, vivid, and per- 
manent, as those perceived by my senses which latter are called 
real things. From all which I conclude, there is a Mind which affects 
me every moment with all the sensible impressions I perceive. And, 
from the variety, order, and manner of these, I conclude the Author 
of them to be wise, powerful, and good, beyond comprehension. Mark 
it well; I do not say, I see things by perceiving that which represents 
them in the intelligible Substance of God. This I do not understand; 
but I say, the things by me perceived are known by the understand- 
ing, and produced by the will of an infinite Spirit. And is not all 
this most plain and evident? Is there any more in it than what a 
little observation in our own minds, and that which passeth in them, 
not only enables us to conceive, but also obliges us to acknowledge. 

Hyl. I think I understand you very clearly; and own the proof 
you give of a Deity seems no less evident than it is surprising. But, 
allowing that God is the supreme and universal Cause of all things, 
yet, may there not be still a Third Nature besides Spirits and Ideas ? 
May we not admit a subordinate and limited cause of our ideas? 
In a word, may there not for all that be Matter? 

Phil. How often must I inculcate the same thing ? You allow the 
things immediately perceived by sense to exist nowhere without the 
mind; but there is nothing perceived by sense which is not perceived 
immediately: therefore there is nothing sensible that exists without 



236 GEORGE BERKELEY 

the mind. The Matter, therefore, which you still insist on is some- 
thing intelligible, I suppose; something that may be discovered by 
reason, and not by sense. 

Hyl. You are in the right. 

Phil. Pray let me know what reasoning your belief of Matter is 
grounded on; and what this Matter is, in your present sense of it. 

Hyl. I find myself affected with various ideas, whereof I know I 
am not the cause; neither are they the cause of themselves, or of one 
another, or capable of subsisting by themselves, as being altogether 
inactive, fleeting, dependent beings. They have therefore some cause 
distinct from me and them: of which I pretend to know no more 
than that it is the cause of my ideas. And this thing, whatever it be, 
I call Matter. 

Phil. Tell me, Hylas, hath every one a liberty to change the current 
proper signification attached to a common name in any language? 
For example, suppose a traveller should tell you that in a certain 
country men pass unhurt through the fire; and, upon explaining him- 
self, you found he meant by the word fire that which others call 
water. Or, if he should assert that there are trees that walk upon 
two legs, meaning men by the term trees. Would you think this 
reasonable ? 

Hyl. No; I should think it very absurd. Common custom is the 
standard of propriety in language. And for any man to affect speak- 
ing improperly is to pervert the use of speech, and can never serve 
to a better purpose than to protract and multiply disputes where there 
is no difference in opinion. 

Phil. And doth not Matter, in the common current acceptation of 
the word, signify an extended, solid, moveable, unthinking, inactive 
Substance ? 

Hyl. It doth. 

Phil. And, hath it not been made evident that no such substance 
can possibly exist? And, though it should be allowed to exist, yet 
how can that which is inactive be a cause; or that which is unt hing- 
ing be a cause of thought? You may, indeed, if you please, annex to 
the word Matter a contrary meaning to what is vulgarly received; 
and tell me you understand by it, an unextended, thinking, active 
being, which is the cause of our ideas. But what else is this than to 



SECOND DIALOGUE 237 

play with words, and run into that very fault you just now con- 
demned with so much reason ? I do by no means find fault with your 
reasoning, in that you collect a cause from the phenomena: but I deny 
that the cause deducible by reason can properly be termed Matter. 

Hyl. There is indeed something in what you say. But I am afraid 
you do not thoroughly comprehend my meaning. I would by no 
means be thought to deny that God, or an infinite Spirit, is the 
Supreme Cause of all things. All I contend for is, that, subordinate 
to the Supreme Agent, there is a cause of a limited and inferior na- 
ture, which concurs in the production of our ideas, not by any act 
of will, or spiritual efficiency, but by that kind of action which 
belongs to Matter, viz. motion. 

Phil. I find you are at every turn relapsing into your old exploded 
conceit, of a moveable, and consequently an extended, substance, ex- 
isting without the mind. What! Have you already forgotten you 
were convinced; or are you willing I should repeat what has been 
said on that head ? In truth this is not fair dealing in you, still to sup- 
pose the being of that which you have so often acknowledged to have 
no being. But, not to insist farther on what has been so largely 
handled, I ask whether all your ideas are not perfectly passive and 
inert, including nothing of action in them. 

Hyl. They are. 

Phil. And are sensible qualities anything else but ideas ? 

Hyl. How often have I acknowledged that they are not. 

Phil. But is not motion a sensible quality? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Consequently it is no action? 

Hyl. I agree with you. And indeed it is very plain that when I stir 
my finger, it remains passive; but my will which produced the mo- 
tion is active. 

Phil. Now, I desire to know, in the first place, whether, motion 
being allowed to be no action, you can conceive any action besides 
volition: and, in the second place, whether to say something and con- 
ceive nothing be not to talk nonsense: and, lastly, whether, having 
considered the premises, you do not perceive that to suppose any 
efficient or active Cause of our ideas, other than Spirit, is highly 
absurd and unreasonable ? 



238 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. I give up the point entirely. But, though Matter may not be 
a cause, yet what hinders its being an instrument, subservient to the 
supreme Agent in the production of our ideas? 

Phil. An instrument say you; pray what may be the figure, springs, 
wheels, and motions, of that instrument? 

Hyl. Those I pretend to determine nothing of, both the substance 
and its qualities being entirely unknown to me. 

Phil. What? You are then of opinion it is made up of unknown 
parts, that it hath unknown motions, and an unknown shape ? 

Hyl. I do not believe that it hath any figure or motion at all, being 
already convinced, that no sensible qualities can exist in an unper- 
ceiving substance. 

Phil. But what notion is it possible to frame of an instrument void 
of all sensible qualities, even extension itself? 

Hyl. I do not pretend to have any notion of it. 

Phil. And what reason have you to think this unknown, this in- 
conceivable Somewhat doth exist? Is it that you imagine God can- 
not act as well without it; or that you find by experience the use of 
some such thing, when you form ideas in your own mind ? 

Hyl. You are always teasing me for reasons of my belief. Pray 
what reasons have you not to believe it? 

Phil. It is to me a sufficient reason not to believe the existence of 
anything, if I see no reason for believing it. But, not to insist on rea- 
sons for believing, you will not so much as let me know what it is 
you would have me believe; since you say you have no manner of no- 
tion of it. After all, let me entreat you to consider whether it be like a 
philosopher, or even like a man of common sense, to pretend to 
believe you know not what, and you know not why. 

Hyl. Hold, Philonous. When I tell you Matter is an instrument, 
I do not mean altogether nothing. It is true I know not the particu- 
lar kind of instrument; but, however, I have some notion of instru- 
ment in general, which I apply to it. 

Phil. But what if it should prove that there is something, even in 
the most general notion of instrument, as taken in a distinct sense 
from cause, which makes the use of it inconsistent with the Divine 
attributes ? 



SECOND DIALOGUE 239 

Hyl. Make that appear and I shall give up the point. 

Phil. What mean you by the general nature or notion of instru- 
ment? 

Hyl. That which is common to all particular instruments com- 
poseth the general notion. 

Phil. Is it not common to all instruments, that they are applied 
to the doing those things only which cannot be performed by the 
mere act of our wills ? Thus, for instance, I never use an instrument 
to move my finger, because it is done by a volition. But I should use 
one if I were to remove part of a rock, or tear up a tree by the roots. 
Are you of the same mind? Or, can you shew any example where 
an instrument is made use of in producing an effect immediately 
depending on the will of the agent ? 

Hyl. I own I cannot. 

Phil. How therefore can you suppose that an All-perfect Spirit, 
on whose Will all things have an absolute and immediate depend- 
ence, should need an instrument in his operations, or, not needing it, 
make use of it? Thus it seems to me that you are obliged to own the 
use of a lifeless inactive instrument to be incompatible with the in- 
finite perfection of God; that is, by your own confession, to give up 
the point. 

Hyl. It doth not readily occur what I can answer you. 

Phil. But, methinks you should be ready to own the truth, when 
it has been fairly proved to you. We indeed, who are beings of finite 
powers, are forced to make use of instruments. And the use of an 
instrument sheweth the agent to be limited by rules of another's 
prescription, and that he cannot obtain his end but in such a way, and 
by such conditions. Whence it seems a clear consequence, that the 
supreme unlimited agent useth no tool or instrument at all. The 
will of an Omnipotent Spirit is no sooner exerted than executed, with- 
out the application of means; which, if they are employed by inferior 
agents, it is not upon account of any real efficacy that is in them, or 
necessary aptitude to produce any effect, but merely in compliance 
with the laws of nature, or those conditions prescribed to them by 
the First Cause, who is Himself above all limitation or prescription 
whatsoever. 



240 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. I will no longer maintain that Matter is an instrument. How- 
ever, I would not be understood to give up its existence neither; since, 
notwithstanding what hath been said, it may still be an occasion. 

Phil. How many shapes is your Matter to take ? Or, how often 
must it be proved not to exist, before you are content to part with it ? 
But, to say no more of this (though by all the laws of disputation I 
may justly blame you for so frequently changing the signification 
of the principal term) I would fain know what you mean by affirm- 
ing that matter is an occasion, having already denied it to be a cause. 
And, when you have shewn in what sense you understand occasion, 
pray, in the next place, be pleased to shew me what reason induceth 
you to believe there is such an occasion of our ideas? 

Hyl. As to the first point: by occasion I mean an inactive unthink- 
ing being, at the presence whereof God excites ideas in our minds. 

Phil. And what may be the nature of that inactive unthinking 
being? 

Hyl. I know nothing of its nature. 

Phil. Proceed then to the second point, and assign some reason 
why we should allow an existence to this inactive, unthinking, 
unknown thing. 

Hyl. When we see ideas produced in our minds, after an orderly 
and constant manner, it is natural to think they have some fixed and 
regular occasions, at the presence of which they are excited. 

Phil. You acknowledge then God alone to be the cause of our 
ideas, and that He causes them at the presence of those occasions. 

Hyl. That is my opinion. 

Phil. Those things which you say are present to God, without 
doubt He perceives. 

Hyl. Certainly; otherwise they could not be to Him an occasion 
of acting. 

Phil. Not to insist now on your making sense of this hypothesis, 
or answering all the puzzling questions and difficulties it is liable 
to: I only ask whether the order and regularity observable in the 
series of our ideas, or the course of nature, be not sufficiently ac- 
counted for by the wisdom and power of God; and whether it doth 
not derogate from those attributes, to suppose He is influenced, 
directed, or put in mind, when and what He is to act, by an unthink- 



SECOND DIALOGUE 24! 

ing substance? And, lastly, whether, in case I granted all you con- 
tend for, it would make anything to your purpose; it not being easy 
to conceive how the external or absolute existence of an unthinking 
substance, distinct from its being perceived, can be inferred from my 
allowing that there are certain things perceived by the mind of God, 
which are to Him the occasion of producing ideas in us ? 

Hyl. I am perfectly at a loss what to think, this notion of occasion 
seeming now altogether as groundless as the rest. 

Phil. Do you not at length perceive that in all these different ac- 
ceptations of Matter, you have been only supposing you know not 
what, for no manner of reason, and to no kind of use? 

Hyl. I freely own myself less fond of my notions since they have 
been so accurately examined. But still, methinks, I have some con- 
fused perception that there is such a thing as Matter. 

Phil. Either you perceive the being of Matter immediately or 
mediately. If immediately, pray inform me by which of the senses 
you perceive it. If mediately, let me know by what reasoning it is 
inferred from those things which you perceive immediately. So 
much for the perception. Then for the Matter itself, I ask whether 
it is object, substratum, cause, instrument, or occasion? You have al- 
ready pleaded for each of these, shifting your notions, and making 
Matter to appear sometimes in one shape, then in another. And what 
you have offered hath been disapproved and rejected by yourself. If 
you have anything new to advance I would gladly bear it. 

Hyl. I think I have already offered all I had to say on those heads. 
I am at a loss what more to urge. 

Phil. And yet you are loath to part with your old prejudice. But, 
to make you quit it more easily, I desire that, beside what has been 
hitherto suggested, you will farther consider whether, upon sup- 
position that Matter exists, you can possibly conceive how you should 
be affected by it. Or, supposing it did not exist, whether it be not 
evident you might for all that be affected with the same ideas you 
now are, and consequently have the very same reasons to believe its 
existence that you now can have. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it is possible we might perceive all things just 
as we do now, though there was no Matter in the world; neither can 
I conceive, if there be Matter, how it should produce any idea in our 



242 GEORGE BERKELEY 

minds. And, I do farther grant you have entirely satisfied me that it 
is impossible there should be such a thing as Matter in any of the 
foregoing acceptations. But still I cannot help supposing that there is 
Matter in some sense or other. What that is I do not indeed pretend 
to determine. 

Phil. I do not expect you should define exactly the nature of that 
unknown being. Only be pleased to tell me whether it is a Sub- 
stance; and if so, whether you can suppose a Substance without acci- 
dents; or, in case you suppose it to have accidents or qualities, I de- 
sire you will let me know what those qualities are, at least what is 
meant by Matter's supporting them? 

Hyl. We have already argued on those points. I have no more to 
say to them. But, to prevent any farther questions, let me tell you 
I at present understand by Matter neither substance nor accident, 
thinking nor extended being, neither cause, instrument, nor occasion, 
but Something entirely unknown, distinct from all these. 

Phil. It seems then you include in your present notion of Matter 
nothing but the general abstract idea of entity. 

Hyl. Nothing else; save only that I super-add to this general idea 
the negation of all those particular things, qualities, or ideas, that I 
perceive, imagine, or in anywise apprehend. 

Phil. Pray where do you suppose this unknown Matter to exist? 

Hyl. Oh Philonous! now you think you have entangled me; for, 
if I say it exists in place, then you will infer that it exists in the mind, 
since it is agreed that place or extension exists only in the mind. But 
I am not ashamed to own my ignorance. I know not where it exists; 
only I am sure it exists not in place. There is a negative answer for 
you. And you must expect no other to all the questions you put for 
the future about Matter. 

Phil. Since you will not tell me where it exists, be pleased to in- 
form me after what manner you suppose it to exist, or what you mean 
by its existence? 

Hyl. It neither thinks nor acts, neither perceives nor is perceived. 

Phil. But what is there positive in your abstracted notion of its 
existence ? 

Hyl. Upon a nice observation, I do not find I have any positive 
notion or meaning at all. I tell you again, I am not ashamed to own 



SECOND DIALOGUE 243 

my ignorance. I know not what is meant by its existence, or how it 
exists. 

Phil. Continue, good Hylas, to act the same ingenuous part, and 
tell me sincerely whether you can frame a distinct idea of Entity in 
general, prescinded from and exclusive of all thinking and corporeal 
beings, all particular things whatsoever. 

Hyl. Hold, let me think a little I profess, Philonous, I do not find 
that I can. At first glance, methought I had some dilute and airy 
notion of Pure Entity in abstract; but, upon closer attention, it hath 
quite vanished out of sight. The more I think on it, the more am I 
confirmed in my prudent resolution of giving none but negative 
answers, and not pretending to the least degree of any positive 
knowledge or conception of Matter, its where, its how, its entity, or 
anything belonging to it. 

Phil. When, therefore, you speak of the existence of Matter, you 
have not any notion in your mind ? 

Hyl. None at all. 

Phil. Pray tell me if the case stands not thus : At first, from a be- 
lief of material substance, you would have it that the immediate 
objects existed without the mind; then that they are archetypes; then 
causes; next instruments; then occasions: lastly something in general, 
which being interpreted proves nothing. So Matter comes to nothing. 
What think you, Hylas, is not this a fair summary of your whole 
proceeding ? 

Hyl. Be that as it will, yet I still insist upon it, that our not being 
able to conceive a thing is no argument against its existence. 

PhiL That from a cause, effect, operation, sign, or other circum- 
stance, there may reasonably be inferred the existence of a thing not 
immediately perceived; and that it were absurd for any man to 
argue against the existence of that thing, from his having no direct 
and positive notion of it, I freely own. But, where there is nothing 
of all this; where neither reason nor revelation induces us to believe 
the existence of a thing; where we have not even a relative notion of 
it; where an abstraction is made from perceiving and being perceived, 
from Spirit and idea : lastly, where there is not so much as the most 
inadequate or faint idea pretended to I will not indeed thence con- 
clude against the reality of any notion, or existence of anything; but 



244 GEORGE BERKELEY 

my inference shall be, that you mean nothing at all; that you employ 
words to no manner of purpose, without any design or signification 
whatsoever. And I leave it to you to consider how mere jargon 
should be treated. 

Hyl. To deal frankly with you, Philonous, your arguments seem 
in themselves unanswerable; but they have not so great an effect 
on me as to produce that entire conviction, that hearty acquiescence, 
which attends demonstration. I find myself relapsing into an obscure 
surmise of I know not what, matter. 

Phil. But, are you not sensible, Hylas, that two things must con- 
cur to take away all scruple, and work a plenary assent in the mind ? 
Let a visible object be set in never so clear a light, yet, if there is any 
imperfection in the sight, or if the eye is not directed towards it, it 
will not be distinctly seen. And though a demonstration be never so 
well grounded and fairly proposed, yet, if there is withal a stain of 
prejudice, or a wrong bias on the understanding, can it be expected 
on a sudden to perceive clearly, and adhere firmly to the truth? No; 
there is need of time and pains: the attention must be awakened 
and detained by a frequent repetition of the same thing placed oft in 
the same, oft in different lights. I have said it already, and find I 
must still repeat and inculcate, that it is an unaccountable licence 
you take, in pretending to maintain you know not what, for you 
know not what reason, to you know not what purpose. Can this be 
paralleled in any art or science, any sect or profession of men? Or 
is there anything so barefacedly groundless and unreasonable to be 
met with even in the lowest of common conversation ? But, perhaps 
you will still say, Matter may exist; though at the same time you 
neither know what is meant by Matter, or by its existence. This in- 
deed is surprising, and the more so because it is altogether voluntary 
[ 3 and of your own head], you not being led to it by any one reason; 
for I challenge you to shew me that thing in nature which needs 
Matter to explain or account for it. 

Hyl. The reality of things cannot be maintained without suppos- 
ing the existence of Matter. And is not this, think you, a good reason 
why I should be earnest in its defence ? 

Phil. The reality of things! What things? sensible or intelligible? 

3 Omitted in last edition. 



SECOND DIALOGUE 245 

Hyl. Sensible things. 

Phil. My glove for example ? 

Hyl. That, or any other thing perceived by the senses. 

Phil. But to fix on some particular thing. Is it not a sufficient evi- 
dence to me of the existence of this glove, that I see it, and feel it, and 
wear it ? Or, if this will not do, how is it possible I should be assured 
of the reality of this thing, which I actually see in this place, by sup- 
posing that some unknown thing, which I never did or can see, exists 
after an unknown manner, in an unknown place, or in no place at 
all ? How can the supposed reality of that which is intangible be a 
proof that anything tangible really exists? Or, of that which is in- 
visible, that any visible thing, or, in general of anything which is 
imperceptible, that a perceptible exists? Do but explain this and I 
shall think nothing too hard for you. 

Hyl. Upon the whole, I am content to own the existence of matter 
is highly improbable; but the direct and absolute impossibility of it 
does not appear to me. 

Phil. But granting Matter to be possible, yet, upon that account 
merely, it can have no more claim to existence than a golden moun- 
tain, or a centaur. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it; but still you do not deny it is possible; and 
that which is possible, for aught you know, may actually exist. 

Phil. I deny it to be possible; and have, if I mistake not, evidently 
proved, from your own concessions, that it is not. In the common 
sense of the word Matter, is there any more implied than an ex- 
tended, solid, figured, moveable substance, existing without the 
mind? And have not you acknowledged, over and over, that you 
have seen evident reason for denying the possibility of such a sub- 
stance ? 

Hyl. True, but that is only one sense of the term Matter. 

Phil. But is it not the only proper genuine received sense? And, 
if Matter, in such a sense, be proved impossible, may it not be 
thought with good grounds absolutely impossible? Else how could 
anything be proved impossible? Or, indeed, how could there be 
any proof at all one way or other, to a man who takes the liberty to 
unsettle and change the common signification of words? 

Hyl. I thought philosophers might be allowed to speak more 



246 GEORGE BERKELEY 

accurately than the vulgar, and were not always confined to the com- 
mon acceptation of a term. 

Phil. But this now mentioned is the common received sense 
among philosophers themselves. But, not to insist on that, have you 
not been allowed to take Matter in what sense you pleased? And 
have you not used this privilege in the utmost extent; sometimes 
entirely changing, at others leaving out, or putting into the defini- 
tion of it whatever, for the present, best served your design, contrary 
to all the known rules of reason and logic ? And hath not this shift- 
ing, unfair method of yours spun out our dispute to an unnecessary 
length; Matter having been particularly examined, and by your own 
confession refuted in each of those senses? And can any more be 
required to prove the absolute impossibility of a thing, than the prov- 
ing it impossible in every particular sense that either you or any one 
else understands it in ? 

HyL But I am not so thoroughly satisfied that you have proved the 
impossibility of Matter, in the last most obscure abstracted and indef- 
inite sense. 

Phil. When is a thing shewn to be impossible? 

HyL When a repugnancy is demonstrated between the ideas com- 
prehended in its definition. 

Phil. But where there are no ideas, there no repugnancy can be 
demonstrated between ideas? 

HyL I agree with you. 

Phil. Now, in that which you call the obscure indefinite sense of 
the word Matter, it is plain, by your own confession, there was in- 
cluded no idea at all, no sense except an unknown sense; which is 
the same thing as none. You are not, therefore, to expect I should 
prove a repugnancy between ideas, where there are no ideas; or the 
impossibility of Matter taken in an unknown sense, that is, no sense at 
all. My business was only to shew you meant nothing; and this you 
were brought to own. So that, in all your various senses, you have 
been shewed either to mean nothing at all, or, if anything, an ab- 
surdity. And if this be not sufficient to prove the impossibility of a 
thing, I desire you will let me know what is. 

HyL I acknowledge you have proved that Matter is impossible; 
nor do I see what more can be said in defence of it. But, at the same 



SECOND DIALOGUE 247 

time that I give up this, I suspect all my other notions. For surely 
none could be more seemingly evident than this once was: and yet it 
now seems as false and absurd as ever it did true before. But I think 
we have discussed the point sufficiently for the present. The remain- 
ing part of the day I would willingly spend in running over in my 
thoughts the several heads of this morning's conversation, and to- 
morrow shall be glad to meet you here again about the same time. 
Phil. I will not fail to attend you. 



THE THIRD DIALOGUE 

Ij^ilLONOUS. 'Tell me, Hylas, what are the fruits of yester- 

m-*J day's meditation ? Has it confirmed you in the same mind 
Ji you were in at parting? or have you since seen cause to 
change your opinion ? 

Hylas. Truly my opinion is that all our opinions are alike vain and 
uncertain. What we approve to-day, we condemn to-morrow. We 
keep a stir about knowledge, and spend our lives in the pursuit of 
it, when, alas! we know nothing all the while: nor do I think it pos- 
sible for us ever to know anything in this life. Our faculties are 
too narrow and too few. Nature certainly never intended us for 
speculation. 

Phil. What! Say you we can know nothing, Hylas? 

Hyl. There is not that single thing in the world whereof we can 
know the real nature, or what it is in itself. 

Phil. Will you tell me I do not really know what fire or water is ? 

Hyl. You may indeed know that fire appears hot, and water fluid; 
but this is no more than knowing what sensations are produced in 
your own mind, upon the application of fire and water to your 
organs of sense. Their internal constitution, their true and real 
nature, you are utterly in the dark as to that. 

Phil. Do I not know this to be a real stone that I stand on, and that 
which I see before my eyes to be a real tree ? 

Hyl. Know? No, it is impossible you or any man alive should 
know it. All you know is, that you have such a certain idea or 
appearance in your own mind. But what is this to the real tree or 
stone? I tell you that colour, figure, and hardness, which you per- 
ceive, are not the real natures of those things, or in the least like them. 
The same may be said of all other real things, or corporeal sub- 
stances, which compose the world. They have none of them any- 
thing of themselves, like those sensible qualities by us perceived. We 
1 Tell me, Hylas,' 'So Hylas' in first and second editions. 
248 



THIRD DIALOGUE 249 

should not therefore pretend to affirm or know anything of them, 
as they are in their own nature. 

Phil. But surely, Hylas, I can distinguish gold, for example, from 
iron : and how could this be, if I knew not what either truly was ? 

Hyl. Believe me, Philonous, you can only distinguish between 
your own ideas. That yellowness, that weight, and other sensible 
qualities, think you they are really in the gold ? They are only rela- 
tive to the senses, and have no absolute existence in nature. And in 
pretending to distinguish the species of real things, by the appear- 
ances in your mind, you may perhaps act as wisely as he that should 
conclude two men were of a different species, because their clothes 
were not of the same colour. 

Phil. It seems, then, we are altogether put off with the appear- 
ances of things, and those false ones too. The very meat I eat, and 
the cloth I wear, have nothing in them like what I see and feel. 

Hyl. Even so. 

Phil. But is it not strange the whole world should be thus im- 
posed on, and so foolish as to believe their senses? And yet I know 
not how it is, but men eat, and drink, and sleep, and perform all the 
offices of life, as comfortably and conveniently as if they really knew 
the things they are conversant about. 

Hyl. They do so: but you know ordinary practice does not re- 
quire a nicety of speculative knowledge. Hence the vulgar retain 
their mistakes, and for all that make a shift to bustle through the 
affairs of life. But philosophers know better things. 

Phil. You mean, they %now that they \now nothing. 

Hyl. That is the very top and perfection of human knowledge. 

Phil. But are you all this while in earnest, Hylas; and are you 
seriously persuaded that you know nothing real in the world ? Sup- 
pose you are going to write, would you not call for pen, ink, and 
paper, like another man; and do you not know what it is you call 
for? 

Hyl. How often must I tell you, that I know not the real nature 
of any one thing in the universe ? I may indeed upon occasion make 
use of pen, ink, and paper. But what any one of them is in its own 
true nature, I declare positively I know not. And the same is true 
with regard to every other corporeal thing. And, what is more, we 



250 GEORGE BERKELEY 

are not only ignorant of the true and real nature of things, but even 
of their existence. It cannot be denied that we perceive such certain 
appearances or ideas; but it cannot be concluded from thence that 
bodies really exist. Nay, now I think on it, I must, agreeably to my 
former concessions, farther declare that it is impossible any real cor- 
poreal thing should exist in nature. 

Phil. You amaze me. Was ever anything more wild and extrava- 
gant than the notions you now maintain: and is it not evident you 
are led into all these extravagances by the belief of material sub- 
stance? This makes you dream of those unknown natures in every- 
thing. It is this occasions your distinguishing between the reality 
and sensible appearances of things. It is to this you are indebted for 
being ignorant of what everybody else knows perfectly well. Nor is 
this all: you are not only ignorant of the true nature of everything, 
but you know not whether anything really exists, or whether there are 
any true natures at all; forasmuch as you attribute to your material 
beings an absolute or external existence, wherein you suppose their 
reality consists. And, as you are forced in the end to acknowledge 
such an existence means either a direct repugnancy, or nothing at 
all, it follows that you are obliged to pull down your own hypothesis 
of material Substance, and positively to deny the real existence of 
any part of the universe. And so you are plunged into the deepest 
and most deplorable scepticism that ever man was. Tell me, Hylas 
is it not as I say ? 

Hyl. I agree with you. Material substance was no more than an 
hypothesis; and a false and groundless one too. I will no longer 
spend my breath in defence of it. But whatever hypothesis you ad- 
vance, or whatsoever scheme of things you introduce in its stead, 1 
doubt not it will appear every whit as false: let me but be allowed 
to question you upon it. That is, suffer me to serve you in your own 
kind, and I warrant it shall conduct you through as many perplexi- 
ties and contradictions, to the very same state of scepticism that I my- 
self am in at present. 

Phil. I assure you, Hylas, I do not pretend to frame any hypothesis 
at all. I am of a vulgar cast, simple enough to believe my senses, and 
leave things as I find them. To be plain, it is my opinion that the 
real things are those very things I see, and feel, and perceive by my 



THIRD DIALOGUE 25! 

senses. These I know; and, finding they answer all the necessities 
and purposes of life, have no reason to be solicitous about any other 
unknown beings. A piece of sensible bread, for instance, would stay 
my stomach better than ten thousand times as much of that insen- 
sible, unintelligible, real bread you speak of. It is likewise my opin- 
ion that colours and other sensible qualities are on the objects. I 
cannot for my life help thinking that snow is white, and fire hot. 
You indeed, who by snow and fire mean certain external, unper- 
ceived, unperceiving substances, are in the right to deny whiteness or 
heat to be affections inherent in them. But I, who understand by 
those words the things I see and feel, am obliged to think like other 
folks. And, as I am no sceptic with regard to the nature of things, so 
neither am I as to their existence. That a thing should be really per- 
ceived by my senses, and at the same time not really exist, is to me 
a plain contradiction; since I cannot prescind or abstract, even in 
thought, the existence of a sensible thing from its being perceived. 
Wood, stones, fire, water, flesh, iron, and the like things, which I 
name and discourse of, are things that I know. And I should not 
have known them but that I perceived them by my senses; and things 
perceived by the senses are immediately perceived; and things im- 
mediately perceived are ideas; and ideas cannot exist without the 
mind; their existence therefore consists in being perceived; when, 
therefore, they are actually perceived there can be no doubt of their 
existence. Away then with all that scepticism, all those ridiculous 
philosophical doubts. What a jest is it for a philosopher to question 
the existence of sensible things, till he hath it proved to him from the 
veracity of God; or to pretend our knowledge in this point 
falls short of intuition or demonstration! I might as well doubt 
of my own being, as of the being of those things I actually see and 
feel. 

Hyl. Not so fast, Philonous: you say you cannot conceive how 
sensible things should exist without the mind. Do you not? 

Phil. I do. 

Hyl. Supposing you were annihilated, cannot you conceive it pos- 
sible that things perceivable by sense may still exist? 

Phil. I can; but then it must be in another mind. When I deny 
sensible things an existence out of the mind, I do not mean my mind 



252 GEORGE BERKELEY 

in particular, but all minds. Now, it is plain they have an existence 
exterior to my mind; since I find them by experience to be inde- 
pendent of it. There is therefore some other Mind wherein they 
exist, during the intervals between the times of my perceiving them : 
as likewise they did before my birth, and would do after my supposed 
annihilation. And, as the same is true with regard to all other finite 
created spirits, it necessarily follows there is an omnipresent eternal 
Mind, which knows and comprehends all things, and exhibits them 
to our view in such a manner, and according to such rules, as He 
Himself hath ordained, and are by us termed the laws of nature. 

Hyl. Answer me, Philonous. Are all our ideas perfectly inert 
beings? Or have they any agency included in them? 

Phil. They are altogether passive and inert. 

Hyl. And is not God an agent, a being purely active ? 

Phil. I acknowledge it. 

Hyl. No idea therefore can be like unto, or represent the nature 
of God? 

Phil. It cannot. 

Hyl. Since therefore you have no idea of the mind of God, how 
can you conceive it possible that things should exist in His mind? 
Or, if you can conceive the mind of God, without having an idea of 
it, why may not I be allowed to conceive the existence of Matter, 
notwithstanding I have no idea of it ? 

Phil. As to your first question: I own I have properly no idea, 
either of God or any other spirit; for these being active, cannot be 
represented by things perfectly inert, as our ideas are. I do never- 
theless know that I, who am a spirit or thinking substance, exist as 
certainly as I know my ideas exist. Farther, I know what I mean by 
the terms 7 and myself; and I know this immediately or intuitively, 
though I do not perceive it as I perceive a triangle, a colour, or a 
sound. The Mind, Spirit, or Soul is that indivisible unextended thing 
which thinks, acts, and perceives. I say indivisible, because unex- 
tended; and unextended, because extended, figured, moveable things 
are ideas; and that which perceives ideas, which thinks and wills, is 
plainly itself no idea, nor like an idea. Ideas are things inactive, and 
perceived. And Spirits a sort of beings altogether different from 
them. I do not therefore say my soul is an idea, or like an idea. 



THIRD DIALOGUE 253 

However, taking the word idea in a large sense, my soul may be said 
to furnish me with an idea, that is, an image or likeness of God 
though indeed extremely inadequate. For, all the notion I have of 
God is obtained by reflecting on my own soul, heightening its powers, 
and removing its imperfections. I have, therefore, though not an in- 
active idea, yet in myself some sort of an active thinking image of the 
Deity. And, though I perceive Him not by sense, yet I have a notion 
of Him, or know Him by reflexion and reasoning. My own mind 
and my own ideas I have an immediate knowledge of; and, by the 
help of these, do mediately apprehend the possibility of the existence 
of other spirits and ideas. Farther, from my own being, and from the 
dependency I find in myself and my ideas, I do, by an act of reason, 
necessarily infer the existence of a God, and of all created things in 
the mind of God. So much for your first question. For the second : 
I suppose by this time you can answer it yourself. For you neither 
perceive Matter objectively, as you do an inactive being or idea; nor 
know it, as you do yourself, by a reflex act, neither do you mediately 
apprehend it by similitude of the one or the other; nor yet collect it 
by reasoning from that which you know immediately. All which 
makes the case of Matter widely different from that of the Deity. 

[ 2 Hyl. You say your own soul supplies you with some sort of an 
idea or image of God. But, at the same time, you acknowledge you 
have, properly speaking, no idea of your own soul. You even affirm 
that spirits are a sort of beings altogether different from ideas. Con- 
sequently that no idea can be like a spirit. We have therefore no 
idea of any spirit. You admit nevertheless that there is spiritual Sub- 
stance, although you have no idea of it; while you deny there can be 
such a thing as material Substance, because you have no notion or 
idea of it. Is this fair dealing? To act consistently, you must either 
admit Matter or reject Spirit. What say you to this? 

Phil. I say, in the first place, that I do not deny the existence of 
material substance, merely because I have no notion of it, but because 

2 This important passage, printed within brackets, is not found in the first and 
second editions of the Dialogues. It is, by anticipation, Berkeley's answer to Hume's 
application of the objections to the reality of abstract or unperceived Matter, to the 
reality of the Ego or Self, of which we are aware through memory, as identical amid 
the changes of its successive states. A. C. F. 



254 GEORGE BERKELEY 

the notion of it is inconsistent; or, in other words, because it is re- 
pugnant that there should be a notion of it. Many things, for aught 
I know, may exist, whereof neither I nor any other man hath or can 
have any idea or notion whatsoever. But then those things must be 
possible, that is, nothing inconsistent must be included in their 
definition. I say, secondly, that, although we believe things to exist 
which we do not perceive, yet we may not believe that any particular 
thing exists, without some reason for such belief: but I have no rea- 
son for believing the existence of Matter. I have no immediate intui- 
tion thereof: neither can I immediately from my sensations, ideas, 
notions, actions, or passions, infer an unthinking, unperceiving, inac- 
tive Substance either by probable deduction, or necessary conse- 
quence. Whereas the being of my Self, that is, my own soul, mind, 
or thinking principle, I evidently know by reflexion. You will forgive 
me if I repeat the same things in answer to the same objections. In 
the very notion or definition of material Substance, there is included 
a manifest repugnance and inconsistency. But this cannot be said 
of the notion of Spirit. That ideas should exist in what doth not per- 
ceive, or be produced by what doth not act, is repugnant. But, it is no 
repugnancy to say that a perceiving thing should be the subject of 
ideas, or an active thing the cause of them. It is granted we have 
neither an immediate evidence nor a demonstrative knowledge of 
the existence of other finite spirits; but it will not thence follow that 
such spirits are on a foot with material substances: if to suppose the 
one be inconsistent, and it be not inconsistent to suppose the other; 
if the one can be inferred by no argument, and there is a probability 
for the other; if we see signs and effects indicating distinct finite 
agents like ourselves, and see no sign or symptom whatever that 
leads to a rational belief of Matter. I say, lastly, that I have a notion 
of Spirit, though I have not, strictly speaking, an idea of it. I do not 
perceive it as an idea, or by means of an idea, but know it by 
reflexion. 

Hyl. Notwithstanding all you have said, to me it seems that, ac- 
cording to your own way of thinking, and in consequence of your 
own principles, it should follow that you are only a system of float- 
ing ideas, without any substance to support them. Words are not to 
be used without a meaning. And, as there is no more meaning in 



THIRD DIALOGUE 255 

spiritual Substance than in material Substance, the one is to be 
exploded as well as the other. 

Phil. How often must I repeat, that I know or am conscious of my 
own being; and that / myself am not my ideas, but somewhat else, 
a thinking, active principle that perceives, knows, wills, and operates 
about ideas. I know that I, one and the same self, perceive both col- 
ours and sounds: that a colour cannot perceive a sound, nor a sound 
a colour: that I am therefore one individual principle, distinct from 
colour and sound; and, for the same reason, from all other sensible 
things and inert ideas. But, I am not in like manner conscious either 
of the existence or essence of Matter. On the contrary, I know that 
nothing inconsistent can exist, and that the existence of Matter implies 
an inconsistency. Farther, I know what I mean when I affirm that 
there is a spiritual substance or support of ideas, that is, that a spirit 
knows and perceives ideas. But, I do not know what is meant when 
it is said that an unperceiving substance hath inherent in it and sup- 
ports either ideas or the archetypes of ideas. There is therefore upon 
the whole no parity of case between Spirit and Matter.] 

HyL I own myself satisfied in this point. But, do you in earnest 
think the real existence of sensible things consists in their being 
actually perceived? If so; how comes it that all mankind distinguish 
between them? Ask the first man you meet, and he shall tell you, 
to be perceived is one thing, and to exist is another. 

Phil. I am content, Hylas, to appeal to the common sense of the 
world for the truth of my notion. Ask the gardener why he thinks 
yonder cherry-tree exists in the garden, and he shall tell you, because 
he sees and feels it; in a word, because he perceives it by his senses. 
Ask him why he thinks an orange-tree not to be there, and he shall 
tell you, because he does not perceive it. What he perceives by sense, 
that he terms a real being, and saith it is or exists; but, that which is 
not perceivable, the same, he saith, hath no being. 

HyL Yes, Philonous, I grant the existence of a sensible thing con- 
sists in being perceivable, but not in being actually perceived. 

Phil. And what is perceivable but an idea? And can an idea 
exist without being actually perceived ? These are points long since 
agreed between us. 



256 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. But, be your opinion never so true, yet surely you will not 
deny it is shocking, and contrary to the common sense of men. Ask 
the fellow whether yonder tree hath an existence out of his mind: 
what answer think you he would make? 

Phil. The same that I should myself, to wit, that it doth exist out 
of his mind. But then to a Christian it cannot surely be shocking to 
say, the real tree, existing without his mind, is truly known and 
comprehended by (that is exists in) the infinite mind of God. Prob- 
ably he may not at first glance be aware of the direct and immediate 
proof there is of this; inasmuch as the very being of a tree, or any 
other sensible thing, implies a mind wherein it is. But the point itself 
he cannot deny. The question between the Materialists and me is 
not, whether things have a real existence out of the mind of this or 
that person, but whether they have an absolute existence, distinct 
from being perceived by God, and exterior to all minds. This indeed 
some heathens and philosophers have affirmed, but whoever enter- 
tains notions of the Deity suitable to the Holy Scriptures will be of 
another opinion. 

Hyl. But, according to your notions, what difference is there be- 
tween real things, and chimeras formed by the imagination, or the 
visions of a dream since they are all equally in the mind ? 

Phil. The ideas formed by the imagination are faint and indistinct; 
they have, besides, an entire dependence on the will. But the ideas 
perceived by sense, that is, real things, are more vivid and clear; and, 
being imprinted on the mind by a spirit distinct from us, have not the 
like dependence on our will. There is therefore no danger of con- 
founding these with the foregoing: and there is as little of confound- 
ing them with the visions of a dream, which are dim, irregular, and 
confused. And, though they should happen to be never so lively and 
natural, yet, by their not being connected, and of a piece with the pre- 
ceding and subsequent transactions of our lives, they might easily be 
distinguished from realities. In short, by whatever method you dis- 
tinguish things from chimeras on your scheme, the same, it is evi- 
dent, will hold also upon mine. For, it must be, I presume, by some 
perceived difference; and I am not for depriving you of any one thing 
that you perceive. 

Hyl. But still, Philonous, you hold, there is nothing in the world 



THIRD DIALOGUE 257 

but spirits and ideas. And this, you must needs acknowledge, sounds 
very oddly. 

Phil. I own the word idea, not being commonly used for thing, 
sounds something out of the way. My reason for using it was, be- 
cause a necessary relation to the mind is understood to be implied 
by that term; and it is now commonly used by philosophers to de- 
note the immediate objects of the understanding. But, however 
oddly the proposition may sound in words, yet it includes nothing 
so very strange or shocking in its sense; which in effect amounts to 
no more than this, to wit, that there are only things perceiving, and 
things perceived; or that every unthinking being is necessarily, and 
from the very nature of its existence, perceived by some mind; if not 
by a finite created mind, yet certainly by the infinite mind of God, 
in whom 'we live, and move, and have our being.' Is this as strange 
as to say, the sensible qualities are not on the objects: or that we can- 
not be sure of the existence of things, or know any thing of their real 
natures though we both see and feel them, and perceive them by all 
our senses? 

Hyl. And, in consequence of this, must we not think there are no 
such things as physical or corporeal causes; but that a Spirit is the 
immediate cause of all the phenomena in nature? Can there be any- 
thing more extravagant than this? 

Phil. Yes, it is infinitely more extravagant to say a thing which is 
inert operates on the mind, and which is unperceiving is the cause 
of our perceptions, [ 3 without any regard either to consistency, or the 
old known axiom, Nothing can give to another that which it hath 
not itself] . Besides, that which to you, I know not for what reason, 
seems so extravagant is no more than the Holy Scriptures assert 
in a hundred places. In them God is represented as the sole and 
immediate Author of all those effects which some heathens and phi- 
losophers are wont to ascribe to Nature, Matter, Fate, or the like 
unthinking principle. This is so much the constant language of 
Scripture that it were needless to confirm it by citations. 

Hyl. You are not aware, Philonous, that in making God the im- 
mediate Author of all the motions in nature, you make Him the 
Author of murder, sacrilege, adultery, and the like heinous sins. 

3 The words within brackets are omitted in the third edition. 



258 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. In answer to that, I observe, first, that the imputation of guilt 
is the same, whether a person commits an action with or without an 
instrument. In case therefore you suppose God to act by the media- 
tion of an instrument or occasion, called Matter, you as truly make 
Him the author of sin as I, who think Him the immediate agent 
in all those operations vulgarly ascribed to Nature. I farther observe 
that sin or moral turpitude doth not consist in the outward physical 
action or motion, but in the internal deviation of the will from the 
laws of reason and religion. This is plain, in that the killing an 
enemy in a battle, or putting a criminal legally to death, is not thought 
sinful; though the outward act be the very same with that in the 
case of murder. Since, therefore, sin doth not consist in the physical 
action, the making God an immediate cause of all such actions is not 
making Him the Author of sin. Lastly, I have nowhere said that 
God is the only agent who produces all the motions in bodies. It is 
true I have denied there are any other agents besides spirits; but this 
is very consistent with allowing to thinking rational beings, in the 
production of motions, the use of limited powers, ultimately indeed 
derived from God, but immediately under the direction of their own 
wills, which is sufficient to entitle them to all the guilt of their 
actions. 

Hyl. But the denying Matter, Philonous, or corporeal Substance; 
there is the point. You can never persuade me that this is not re- 
pugnant to the universal sense of mankind. Were our dispute to be 
determined by most voices, I am confident you would give up the 
point, without gathering the votes. 

Phil. I wish both our opinions were fairly stated and submitted 
to the judgment of men who had plain common sense, without the 
prejudices of a learned education. Let me be represented as one who 
trusts his senses, who thinks he knows the things he sees and feels, 
and entertains no doubts of their existence; and you fairly set forth 
with all your doubts, your paradoxes, and your scepticism about you, 
and I shall willingly acquiesce in the determination of any indifferent 
person. That there is no substance wherein ideas can exist beside 
spirit is to me evident. And that the objects immediately perceived 
are ideas, is on all hands agreed. And that sensible qualities are objects 
immediately perceived no one can deny. It is therefore evident 



THIRD DIALOGUE 259 

there can be no substratum of those qualities but spirit; in which 
they exist, not by way of mode or property, but as a thing per- 
ceived in that which perceives it. I deny therefore that there is 
any unthinking substratum of the objects of sense, and in that accep- 
tation that there is any material substance. But if by material sub- 
stance is meant only sensible body that which is seen and felt 
(and the unphilosophical part of the world, I dare say, mean no 
more) then I am more certain of matter's existence than you or any 
other philosopher pretend to be. If there be anything which makes 
the generality of mankind averse from the notions I espouse, it is a 
misapprehension that I deny the reality of sensible things. But, as it 
is you who are guilty of that, and not I, it follows that in truth their 
aversion is against your notions and not mine. I do therefore assert 
that I am as certain as of my own being, that there are bodies or cor- 
poreal substances (meaning the things I perceive by my senses) ; and 
that, granting this, the bulk of mankind will take no thought about, 
nor think themselves at all concerned in the fate of those unknown 
natures, and philosophical quiddities, which some men are so 
fond of. 

Hyl. What say you to this? Since, according to you, men judge of 
the reality of things by their senses, how can a man be mistaken in 
thinking the moon a plain lucid surface, about a foot in diameter; 
or a square tower, seen at a distance, round; or an oar, with one end 
in the water, crooked? 

Phil. He is not mistaken with regard to the ideas he actually 
perceives, but in the inference he makes from his present perceptions. 
Thus, in the case of the oar, what he immediately perceives by sight 
is certainly crooked; and so far he is in the right. But if he thence con- 
clude that upon taking the oar out of the water he shall perceive the 
same crookedness; or that it would affect his touch as crooked things 
are wont to do: in that he is mistaken. In like manner, if he shall 
conclude from what he perceives in one station, that, in case he ad- 
vances towards the moon or tower, he should still be affected with 
the like ideas, he is mistaken. But his mistake lies not in what he 
perceives immediately, and at present, (it being a manifest contra- 
diction to suppose he should err in respect of that) but in the wrong 
judgment he makes concerning the ideas he apprehends to be con- 



260 GEORGE BERKELEY 

nected with those immediately perceived: or, concerning the ideas 
that, from what he perceives at present, he imagines would be per- 
ceived in other circumstances. The case is the same with regard to 
the Copernican system. We do not here perceive any motion of the 
earth : but it were erroneous thence to conclude, that, in case we were 
placed at as great a distance from that as we are now from the other 
planets, we should not then perceive its motion. 

Hyl. I understand you; and must needs own you say things plaus- 
ible enough. But, give me leave to put you in mind of one thing. 
Pray, Philonous, were you not formerly as positive that Matter 
existed, as you are now that it does not ? 

Phil. I was. But here lies the difference. Before, my positiveness 
was founded, without examination, upon prejudice; but now, after 
inquiry, upon evidence. 

Hyl. After all, it seems our dispute is rather about words than 
things. We agree in the thing, but differ in the name. That we are 
affected with ideas from without is evident; and it is no less evident 
that there must be (I will not say archetypes, but) Powers without 
the mind, corresponding to those ideas. And, as these Powers cannot 
subsist by themselves, there is some subject of them necessarily to be 
admitted; which I call Matter, and you call Spirit. This is all the 
difference. 

Phil. Pray, Hylas, is that powerful Being, or subject of powers, 
extended ? 

Hyl. It hath not extension; but it hath the power to raise in you 
the idea of extension. 

Phil. It is therefore itself unextended? 

Hyl. I grant it. 

Phil. Is it not also active ? 

Hyl. Without doubt. Otherwise, how could we attribute powers 
to it? 

Phil. Now let me ask you two questions: First, Whether it be 
agreeable to the usage either of philosophers or others to give the 
name Matter to an unextended active being? And, Secondly, 
Whether it be not ridiculously absurd to misapply names contrary 
to the common use of language ? 

Hyl. Well then, let it not be called Matter, since you will have it 



THIRD DIALOGUE 26 1 

so, but some Third Nature distinct from Matter and Spirit. For 
what reason is there why you should call it Spirit? Does not the 
notion of spirit imply that it is thinking, as well as active and un- 
extended ? 

Phil. My reason is this: because I have a mind to have some no- 
tion of meaning in what I say : but I have no notion of any action dis- 
tinct from volition, neither can I conceive volition to be anywhere 
but in a spirit: therefore, when I speak of an active being, I am 
obliged to mean a Spirit. Beside, what can be plainer than that a 
thing which hath no ideas in itself cannot impart them to me; and, 
if it hath ideas, surely it must be a Spirit. To make you comprehend 
the point still more clearly if it be possible, I assert as well as you 
that, since we are affected from without, we must allow Powers to be 
without, in a Being distinct from ourselves. So far we are agreed. 
But then we differ as to the kind of this powerful Being. I will have 
it to be Spirit, you Matter, or I know not what (I may add too, you 
know not what) Third Nature. Thus, I prove it to be Spirit. From 
the effects I see produced, I conclude there are actions; and, because 
actions, volitions; and, because there are volitions, there must be a 
will. Again, the things I perceive must have an existence, they or 
their archetypes, out of my mind : but, being ideas, neither they nor 
their archetypes can exist otherwise than in an understanding; there 
is therefore an understanding. But will and understanding consti- 
tute in the strictest sense a mind or spirit. The powerful cause, there- 
fore, of my ideas is in strict propriety of speech a Spirit. 

Hyl. And now I warrant you think you have made the point very 
clear, little suspecting that what you advance leads directly to a con- 
tradiction. Is it not an absurdity to imagine any imperfection in 
God? 

Phil. Without a doubt. 

Hyl. To suffer pain is an imperfection ? 

Phil. It is. 

Hyl. Are we not sometimes affected with pain and uneasiness by 
some other Being? 

Phil. We are. 

Hyl. And have you not said that Being is a Spirit, and is not that 
Spirit God? 



262 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. I grant it. 

Hyl. But you have asserted that whatever ideas we perceive from 
without are in the mind which affects us. The ideas, therefore, of 
pain and uneasiness are in God; or, in other words, God suffers pain: 
that is to say, there is an imperfection in the Divine nature: which, 
you acknowledged, was absurd. So you are caught in a plain con- 
tradiction. 

Phil. That God knows or understands all things, and that He 
knows, among other things, what pain is, even every sort of painful 
sensation, and what it is for His creatures to suffer pain, I make no 
question. But, that God, though He knows and sometimes causes 
painful sensations in us, can Himself suffer pain, I positively deny. 
We, who are limited and dependent spirits, are liable to impressions 
of sense, the effects of an external Agent, which, being produced 
against our wills, are sometimes painful and uneasy. But God, whom 
no external being can affect, who perceives nothing by sense as we 
do; whose will is absolute and independent, causing all things, and 
liable to be thwarted or resisted by nothing: it is evident, such a 
Being as this can suffer nothing, nor be affected with any painful 
sensation, or indeed any sensation at all. We are chained to a body : 
that is to say, our perceptions are connected with corporeal motions. 
By the law of our nature, we are affected upon every alteration in the 
nervous parts of our sensible body; which sensible body, rightly 
considered, is nothing but a complexion of such qualities or ideas as 
have no existence distinct from being perceived by a mind. So that 
this connexion of sensations with corporeal motions means no more 
than a correspondence in the order of nature, between two sets of 
ideas, or things immediately perceivable. But God is a Pure Spirit, 
disengaged from all such sympathy, or natural ties. No corporeal 
motions are attended with the sensations of pain or pleasure in His 
mind. To know everything knowable, is certainly a perfection; but 
to endure, or suffer, or feel anything by sense, is an imperfection. 
The former, I say, agrees to God, but not the latter. God knows, 
or hath ideas; but His ideas are not conveyed to Him by sense, 
as ours are. Your not distinguishing, where there is so manifest a 
difference, makes you fancy you see an absurdity where there is 
none. 



THIRD DIALOGUE 263 

Hyl. But, all this while you have not considered that the quantity 
of Matter has been demonstrated to be proportioned to the gravity of 
bodies. And what can withstand demonstration ? 

Phil. Let me see how you demonstrate that point. 

Hyl. I lay it down for a principle, that the moments or quantities 
of motion in bodies are in a direct compounded reason of the veloci- 
ties and quantities of Matter contained in them. Hence, where the 
velocities are equal, it follows the moments are directly as the quan- 
tity of Matter in each. But it is found by experience that all bodies 
(bating the small inequalities, arising from the resistance of the air) 
descend with an equal velocity; the motion therefore of descending 
bodies, and consequently their gravity, which is the cause or prin- 
ciple of that motion, is proportional to the quantity of Matter; which 
was to be demonstrated. 

Phil. You lay it down as a self-evident principle that the quantity 
of motion in any body is proportional to the velocity and Matter 
taken together; and this is made use of to prove a proposition from 
whence the existence of Matter is inferred. Pray is not this arguing 
in a circle? 

Hyl. In the premise I only mean that the motion is proportional 
to the velocity, jointly with the extension and solidity. 

Phil. But, allowing this to be true, yet it will not thence follow 
that gravity is proportional to Matter, in your philosophic sense of 
the word; except you take it for granted that unknown substratum, 
or whatever else you call it, is proportional to those sensible qualities; 
which to suppose is plainly begging the question. That there is 
magnitude and solidity, or resistance, perceived by sense, I readily 
grant; as likewise, that gravity may be proportional to those qualities 
I will not dispute. But that either these qualities as perceived by us, 
or the powers producing them, do exist in a material substratum; 
this is what I deny, and you indeed affirm, but, notwithstanding your 
demonstration, have not yet proved. 

Hyl. I shall insist no longer on that point. Do you think, however, 
you shall persuade me that the natural philosophers have been 
dreaming all this while? Pray what becomes of all their hypotheses 
and explications of the phenomena, which suppose the existence of 
Matter ? 



264 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. What mean you, Hylas, by the phenomena? 

HyL I mean the appearances which I perceive by my senses. 

Phil. And the appearances perceived by sense, are they not ideas ? 

HyL I have told you so a hundred times. 

Phil. Therefore, to explain the phenomena, is, to shew how we 
come to be affected with ideas, in that manner and order wherein 
they are imprinted on our senses. Is it not ? 

Hyl. It is. 

Phil. Now, if you can prove that any philosopher has explained 
the production of any one idea in our minds by the help of Matter, 
I shall for ever acquiesce, and look on all that hath been said against 
it as nothing; but, if you cannot, it is vain to urge the explication of 
phenomena. That a Being endowed with knowledge and will should 
produce or exhibit ideas is easily understood. But that a Being which 
is utterly destitute of these faculties should be able to produce ideas, 
or in any sort to affect an intelligence, this I can never understand. 
This I say, though we had some positive conception of Matter, 
though we knew its qualities, and could comprehend its existence, 
would yet be so far from explaining things, that it is itself the most 
inexplicable thing in the world. And yet, for all this, it will not 
follow that philosophers have been doing nothing; for, by observing 
and reasoning upon the connexion of ideas, they discover the laws 
and methods of nature, which is a part of knowledge both useful and 
entertaining. 

Hyl. After all, can it be supposed God would deceive all mankind? 
Do you imagine He would have induced the whole world to believe 
the being of Matter, if there was no such thing? 

Phil. That every epidemical opinion, arising from prejudice, or 
passion, or thoughtlessness, may be imputed to God, as the Author 
of it, I believe you will not affirm. Whatsoever opinion we father on 
Him, it must be either because He has discovered it to us by super- 
natural revelation; or because it is so evident to our natural faculties, 
which were framed and given us by God, that it is impossible we 
should withhold our assent from it. But where is the revelation ? or 
where is the evidence that extorts the belief of Matter? Nay, how 
does it appear, that Matter, ta\en for something distinct from what 
we perceive by our senses, is thought to exist by all mankind; or in- 



THIRD DIALOGUE 265 

deed, by any except a few philosophers, who do not know what they 
would be at? Your question supposes these points are clear; and, 
when you have cleared them, I shall think myself obliged to give 
you another answer. In the meantime, let it suffice that I tell you, I 
do not suppose God has deceived mankind at all. 

Hyl. But the novelty, Philonous, the novelty! There lies the dan- 
ger. New notions should always be discountenanced; they unsettle 
men's minds, and nobody knows where they will end. 

Phil. Why the rejecting a notion that has no foundation, either in 
sense, or in reason, or in Divine authority, should be thought to un- 
settle the belief of such opinions as are grounded on all or any of 
these, I cannot imagine. That innovations in government and re- 
ligion are dangerous, and ought to be discountenanced, I freely own. 
But is there the like reason why they should be discouraged in philos- 
ophy ? The making anything known which was unknown before is 
an innovation in knowledge: and, if all such innovations had been 
forbidden, men would have made a notable progress in the arts and 
sciences. But it is none of my business to plead for novelties and 
paradoxes. That the qualities we perceive are not on the objects: 
that we must not believe our senses: that we know nothing of the 
real nature of things, and can never be assured even of their exist- 
ence: that real colours and sounds are nothing but certain unknown 
figures and motions : that motions are in themselves neither swift nor 
slow: that there are in bodies absolute extensions, without any par- 
ticular magnitude or figure: that a thing stupid, thoughtless, and in- 
active, operates on a spirit: that the least particle of a body contains 
innumerable extended parts: these are the novelties, these are the 
strange notions which shock the genuine uncorrupted judgment of 
all mankind; and being once admitted, embarrass the mind with 
endless doubts and difficulties. And it is against these and the like 
innovations I endeavour to vindicate Common Sense. It is true, in 
doing this, I may perhaps be obliged to use some ambages, and ways 
of speech not common. But, if my notions are once thoroughly un- 
derstood, that which is most singular in them will, in effect, be found 
to amount to no more than this: that it is absolutely impossible, 
and a plain contradiction, to suppose any unthinking Being should 
exist without being perceived by a Mind. And, if this notion be 



266 GEORGE BERKELEY 

singular, it is a shame it should be so, at this time of day, and in a 
Christian country. 

Hyl. As for the difficulties other opinions may be liable to, those 
are out of the question. It is your business to defend your own opin- 
ion. Can anything be plainer than that you are for changing all 
things into ideas? You, I say, who are not ashamed to charge me 
with scepticism. This is so plain, there is no denying it. 

Phil. You mistake me. I am not for changing things into ideas, 
but rather ideas into things; since those immediate objects of percep- 
tion, which, according to you, are only appearances of things, I take 
to be the real things themselves. 

Hyl. Things! You may pretend what you please; but it is certain 
you leave us nothing but the empty forms of things, the outside only 
which strikes the senses. 

Phil. What you call the empty forms and outside of things seem 
to me the very things themselves. Nor are they empty or incomplete, 
otherwise than upon your supposition that Matter is an essential 
part of all corporeal things. We both, therefore, agree in this, that we 
perceive only sensible forms: but herein we differ you will have 
them to be empty appearances, I, real beings. In short, you do not 
trust your senses, I do. 

Hyl. You say you believe your senses; and seem to applaud your- 
self that in this you agree with the vulgar. According to you, there- 
fore, the true nature of a thing is discovered by the senses. If so, 
whence comes that disagreement ? Why is not the same figure, and 
other sensible qualities, perceived all manner of ways? and why 
should we use a microscope the better to discover the true nature of 
a body, if it were discoverable to the naked eye ? 

Phil. Strictly speaking, Hylas, we do not see the same object that 
we feel; neither is the same object perceived by the microscope which 
was by the naked eye. But, in case every variation was thought suffi- 
cient to constitute a new kind of individual, the endless number of 
confusion of names would render language impracticable. There- 
fore, to avoid this, as well as other inconveniences which are obvious 
upon a little thought, men combine together several ideas, appre- 
hended by divers senses, or by the same sense at different times, or 
in different circumstances, but observed, however, to have some con' 



THIRD DIALOGUE 267 

nexion in nature, either with respect to co-existence or succession; all 
which they refer to one name, and consider as one thing. Hence it 
follows that when I examine, by my other senses, a thing I have seen, 
it is not in order to understand better the same object which I had 
perceived by sight, the object of one sense not being perceived by the 
other senses. And, when I look through a microscope, it is not that I 
may perceive more clearly what I perceived already with my bare 
eyes; the object perceived by the glass being quite different from the 
former. But, in both cases, my aim is only to know what ideas are 
connected together; and the more a man knows of the connexion 
of ideas, the more he is said to know of the nature of things. What, 
therefore, if our ideas are variable; what if our senses are not in all 
circumstances affected with the same appearances. It will not thence 
follow they are not to be trusted; or that they are inconsistent either 
with themselves or anything else : except it be with your preconceived 
notion of (I know not what) one single, unchanged, unperceivable, 
real Nature, marked by each name. Which prejudice seems to have 
taken its rise from not rightly understanding the common language 
of men, speaking of several distinct ideas as united into one thing 
by the mind. And, indeed, there is cause to suspect several erroneous 
conceits of the philosophers are owing to the same original: while 
they began to build their schemes not so much on notions as on 
words, which were framed by the vulgar, merely for conveniency 
and dispatch in the common actions of life, without any regard to 
speculation. 

Hyl. Methinks I apprehend your meaning. 

Phil. It is your opinion the ideas we perceive by our senses are 
not real things, but images or copies of them. Our knowledge, there- 
fore, is no farther real than as our ideas are the true representations 
of those originals. But, as these supposed originals are in themselves 
unknown, it is impossible to know how far our ideas resemble them; 
or whether they resemble them at all. We cannot, therefore, be sure 
we have any real knowledge. Farther, as our ideas are perpetually 
varied, without any change in the supposed real things, it necessarily 
follows they cannot all be true copies of them: or, if some are and 
others are not, it is impossible to distinguish the former from the 
latter. And this plunges us yet deeper in uncertainty. Again, when 



268 GEORGE BERKELEY 

we consider the point, we cannot conceive how any idea, or any- 
thing like an idea, should have an absolute existence out of a mind : 
nor consequently, according to you, how there should be any real 
thing in nature. The result of all which is that we are thrown into the 
most hopeless and abandoned scepticism. Now, give me leave to 
ask you, First, Whether your referring ideas to certain absolutely ex- 
isting unperceived substances, as their originals, be not the source of 
all this scepticism? Secondly, whether you are informed, either by 
sense or reason, of the existence of those unknown originals ? And, 
in case you are not, whether it be not absurd to suppose them? 
Thirdly, Whether, upon inquiry, you find there is anything distinctly 
conceived or meant by the absolute or external existence of unper- 
ceiving substances? Lastly, Whether, the premises considered, it be 
not the wisest way to follow nature, trust your senses, and, laying 
aside all anxious thought about unknown natures or substances, ad- 
mit with the vulgar those for real things which are perceived by 
the senses? 

Hyl. For the present, I have no inclination to the answering part. 
I would much rather see how you can get over what follows. Pray 
are not the objects perceived by the senses of one, likewise perceivable 
to others present ? If there were a hundred more here, they would all 
see the garden, the trees, and flowers, as I see them. But they are not 
in the same manner affected with the ideas I frame in my imagination. 
Does not this make a difference between the former sort of objects 
and the latter? 

Phil. I grant it does. Nor have I ever denied a difference between 
the objects of sense and those of imagination. But what would you 
infer from thence? You cannot say that sensible objects exist unper- 
ceived, because they are perceived by many. 

Hyl. I own I can make nothing of that objection: but it hath led 
me into another. Is it not your opinion that by our senses we perceive 
only the ideas existing in our minds? 

Phil. It is. 

Hyl. But the same idea which is in my mind cannot be in yours, 
or in any other mind. Doth it not therefore follow, from your prin- 
ciples, that no two can see the same thing? And is not this highly 
absurd ? 



THIRD DIALOGUE 269 

Phil. If the term same be taken in the vulgar acceptation, it is cer- 
tain (and not at all repugnant to the principles I maintain) that dif- 
ferent persons may perceive the same thing; or the same thing or idea 
exist in different minds. Words are of arbitrary imposition; and, 
since men are used to apply the word same where no distinction or 
variety is perceived, and I do not pretend to alter their perceptions, 
it follows that, as men have said before, several saw the same thing, 
so they may, upon like occasions, still continue to use the same 
phrase, without any deviation either from propriety of language, or 
the truth of things. But, if the term same be used in the acceptation 
of philosophers, who pretend to an abstracted notion of identity, 
then, according to their sundry definitions of this notion (for it is not 
yet agreed wherein that philosophic identity consists), it may or 
may not be possible for divers persons to perceive the same thing. 
But whether philosophers shall think fit to call a thing the same or 
no, is, I conceive, of small importance. Let us suppose several men 
together, all endued with the same faculties, and consequently af- 
fected in like sort by their senses, and who had yet never known 
the use of language; they would, without question, agree in 
their perceptions. Though perhaps, when they came to the use of 
speech, some regarding the uniformness of what was perceived, 
might call it the same thing: others, especially regarding the diversity 
of persons who perceived, might choose the denomination of different 
things. But who sees not that all the dispute is about a word ? to wit, 
whether what is perceived by different persons may yet have the 
term same applied to it? Or, suppose a house, whose walls or out- 
ward shell remaining unaltered, the chambers are all pulled down,, 
and new ones built in their place; and that you should call this the 
same, and I should say it was not the same house: would we not,, 
for all this, perfectly agree in our thoughts of the house, considered 
in itself? And would not all the difference consist in a sound? If 
you should say, We differed in our notions; for that you super-added 
to your idea of the house the simple abstracted idea of identity, 
whereas I did not; I would tell you, I know not what you mean by 
the abstracted idea of identity; and should desire you to look into 

your own thoughts, and be sure you understood yourself. Why 

so silent, Hylas? Are you not yet satisfied men may dispute about 
identity and diversity, without any real difference in their thoughts 



270 GEORGE BERKELEY 

and opinions, abstracted from names? Take this farther reflexion 
with you that whether Matter be allowed to exist or no, the case is 
exactly the same as to the point in hand. For the Materialists them- 
selves acknowledge what we immediately perceive by our senses 
to be our own ideas. Your difficulty, therefore, that no two see the 
same thing, makes equally against the Materialists and me. 

Hyl. [ 4 Ay, Philonous,] But they suppose an external archetype, 
to which referring their several ideas they may truly be said to 
perceive the same thing. 

Phil. And (not to mention your having discarded those arche- 
types) so may you suppose an external archetype on my principles; 
external, I mean, to your own mind: though indeed it must be 
supposed to exist in that Mind which comprehends all things; but 
then, this serves all the ends of identity, as well as if it existed out 
of a mind. And I am sure you yourself will not say it is less 
intelligible. 

Hyl. You have indeed clearly satisfied me either that there is 
no difficulty at bottom in this point; or, if there be, that it makes 
equally against both opinions. 

Phil. But that which makes equally against two contradictory 
opinions can be a proof against neither. 

Hyl. I acknowledge it. 

But, after all, Philonous, when I consider the substance of what 
you advance against Scepticism, it amounts to no more than this: 
We are sure that we really see, hear, feel; in a word, that we are 
affected with sensible impressions. 

Phil. And how are we concerned any farther? I see this cherry, 
I feel it, I taste it: and I am sure nothing cannot be seen, or felt, or 
tasted: it is therefore real. Take away the sensations of softness, 
moisture, redness, tartness, and you take away the cherry, since it is 
not a being distinct from sensations. A cherry, I say, is nothing but 
a congeries of sensible impressions, or ideas perceived by various 
senses: which ideas are united into one thing (or have one name 
given them) by the mind, because they are observed to attend each 
other. Thus, when the palate is afTected with such a particular taste, 

4 Omitted in author's last edition. 



THIRD DIALOGUE 27! 

the sight is affected with a red colour, the touch with roundness, 
softness, &c. Hence, when I see, and feel, and taste, in such sundry 
certain manners, I am sure the cherry exists, or is real; its reality 
being in my opinion nothing abstracted from those sensations. But 
if by the word cherry you mean an unknown nature, distinct from 
all those sensible qualities, and by its existence something distinct 
from its being perceived; then, indeed, I own, neither you nor I, nor 
any one else, can be sure it exists. 

HyL But, what would you say, Philonous, if I should bring the 
very same reasons against the existence of sensible things in a mind, 
which you have offered against their existing in a material sub- 
stratum? 

Phil. When I see your reasons, you shall hear what I have to say 
to them. 

HyL Is the mind extended or unextended ? 

Phil. Unextended, without doubt. 

HyL Do you say the things you perceive are in your mind ? 

Phil. They are. 

HyL Again, have I not heard you speak of sensible impressions? 

Phil. I believe you may. 

HyL Explain to me now, O Philonous! how it is possible there 
should be room for all those trees and houses to exist in your mind. 
Can extended things be contained in that which is unextended ? Or, 
are we to imagine impressions made on a thing void of all solidity ? 
You cannot say objects are in your mind, as books in your study: 
or that things are imprinted on it, as the figure of a seal upon wax. 
In what sense, therefore, are we to understand those expressions? 
Explain me this if you can: and I shall then be able to answer all 
those queries you formerly put to me about my substratum. 

Phil. Look you, Hylas, when I speak of objects as existing in the 
mind, or imprinted on the senses, I would not be understood in the 
gross literal sense; as when bodies are said to exist in a place, or a 
seal to make an impression upon wax. My meaning is only that the 
mind comprehends or perceives them; and that it is affected from 
without, or by some being distinct from itself. This is my explication 
of your difficulty; and how it can serve to make your tenet of an 
unperceiving material substratum intelligible, I would fain know. 



272 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Hyl. Nay, if that be all, I confess I do not see what use can be 
made of it. But are you not guilty of some abuse of language in this ? 

Phil. None at all. It is no more than common custom, which you 
know is the rule of language, hath authorised: nothing being more 
usual, than for philosophers to speak of the immediate objects of 
the understanding as things existing in the mind. Nor is there any- 
thing in this but what is conformable to the general analogy of 
language; most part of the mental operations being signified by 
words borrowed from sensible things; as is plain in the terms com- 
prehend, reflect, discourse, O*c., which, being applied to the mind, 
must not be taken in their gross, original sense. 

Hyl. You have, I own, satisfied me in this point. But there still 
remains one great difficulty, which I know not how you will get 
over. And, indeed, it is of such importance that if you could solve 
all others, without being able to find a solution for this, you must 
never expect to make me a proselyte to your principles. 

Phil. Let me know this mighty difficulty. 

Hyl. The Scripture account of the creation is what appears to me 
utterly irreconcilable with your notions. Moses tells us of a crea- 
tion: a creation of what? of ideas? No, certainly, but of things, of 
real things, solid corporeal substances. Bring your principles to 
agree with this, and I shall perhaps agree with you. 

Phil. Moses mentions the sun, moon, and stars, earth and sea, 
plants and animals. That all these do really exist, and were in the 
beginning created by God, I make no question. If by ideas you mean 
fictions and fancies of the mind, then these are no ideas. If by ideas 
you mean immediate objects of the understanding, or sensible 
things, which cannot exist unperceived, or out of a mind, then these 
things are ideas. But whether you do or do not call them ideas, it 
matters little. The difference is only about a name. And, whether 
that name be retained or rejected, the sense, the truth, and reality 
of things continues the same. In common talk, the objects of our 
senses are not termed ideas, but things. Call them so still : provided 
you do not attribute to them any absolute external existence, and I 
shall never quarrel with you for a word. The creation, therefore, I 
allow to have been a creation of things, of real things. Neither is 



THIRD DIALOGUE 273 

this in the least inconsistent with my principles, as is evident from 
what I have now said; and would have been evident to you without 
this, if you had not forgotten what had been so often said before. 
But as for solid corporeal substances, I desire you to show where 
Moses makes any mention of them; and, if they should be mentioned 
by him, or any other inspired writer, it would still be incumbent 
on you to shew those words were not taken in the vulgar acceptation, 
for things falling under our senses, but in the philosophic acceptation, 
for Matter, or an unknown quiddity, with an absolute existence. 
When you have proved these points, then (and not till then) may 
you bring the authority of Moses into our dispute. 

HyL It is in vain to dispute about a point so clear. I am content 
to refer it to your own conscience. Are you not satisfied there is 
some peculiar repugnancy between the Mosaic account of the crea- 
tion and your notions ? 

Phil. If all possible sense which can be put on the first chapter 
of Genesis may be conceived as consistently with my principles as 
any other, then it has no peculiar repugnancy with them. But there 
is no sense you may not as well conceive, believing as I do. Since, 
besides spirits, all you conceive are ideas; and the existence of these 
I do not deny. Neither do you pretend they exist without the 
mind. 

Hyl. Pray let me see any sense you can understand it in. 

Phil. Why, I imagine that if I had been present at the creation, I 
should have seen things produced into being that is become per- 
ceptible in the order prescribed by the sacred historian. I never 
before believed the Mosaic account of the creation, and now find no 
alteration in my manner of believing it. When things are said to 
begin or end their existence, we do not mean this with regard to 
God, but His creatures. All objects are eternally known by God, or, 
which is the same thing, have an eternal existence in His mind: but 
when things, before imperceptible to creatures, are, by a decree of 
God, perceptible to them, then are they said to begin a relative 
existence, with respect to created minds. Upon reading therefore 
the Mosaic account of the creation, I understand that the several 
parts of the world became gradually perceivable to finite spirits, 
endowed with proper faculties; so that, whoever such were present, 



274 GEORGE BERKELEY 

they were in truth perceived by them. This is the literal obvious 
sense suggested to me by the words of the Holy Scripture : in which 
is included no mention, or no thought, either o substratum, instru- 
ment, occasion, or absolute existence. And, upon inquiry, I doubt 
not it will be found that most plain honest men, who believe the 
creation, never think of those things any more than I. What meta- 
physical sense you may understand it in, you only can tell. 

HyL But, Philonous, you do not seem to be aware that you allow 
created things, in the beginning, only a relative, and consequently 
hypothetical being: that is to say, upon supposition there were men 
to perceive them; without which they have no actuality of absolute 
existence, wherein creation might terminate. Is it not, therefore, 
according to you, plainly impossible the creation of any inanimate 
creatures should precede that of man? And is not this directly 
contrary to the Mosaic account? 

Phil. In answer to that, I say, first, created beings might begin to 
exist in the mind of other created intelligences, beside men. You 
will not therefore be able to prove any contradiction between Moses 
and my notions, unless you first shew there was no other order of 
finite created spirits in being, before man. I say farther, in case we 
conceive the creation, as we should at this time, a parcel of plants 
or vegetables of all sorts produced, by an invisible Power, in a desert 
where nobody was present that this way of explaining or conceiv- 
ing it is consistent with my principles, since they deprive you of 
nothing, either sensible or imaginable; that it exactly suits with the 
common, natural, and undebauched notions of mankind; that it 
manifests the dependence of all things on God; and consequently 
hath all the good effect or influence, which it is possible that im- 
portant article of our faith should have in making men humble, 
thankful, and resigned to their [ 5 great] Creator. I say, moreover, 
that, in this naked conception of things, divested of words, there 
will not be found any notion of what you call the actuality of abso- 
lute existence. You may indeed raise a dust with those terms, and 
so lengthen our dispute to no purpose. But I entreat you calmly to 
look into your own thoughts, and then tell me if they are not a 
useless and unintelligible jargon. 

5 In the first and second editions only. 



THIRD DIALOGUE 2/5 

Hyl. I own I have no very clear notion annexed to them. But 
what say you to this? Do you not make the existence of sensible 
things consist in their being in a mind? And were not all things 
eternally in the mind o God? Did they not therefore exist from 
all eternity, according to you? And how could that which was 
eternal be created in time? Can anything be clearer or better con- 
nected than this? 

Phil. And are not you too of opinion, that God knew all things 
from eternity? 

Hyl. I am. 

Phil. Consequently they always had a being in the Divine intellect. 

Hyl. This I acknowledge. 

Phil. By your own confession, therefore, nothing is new, or begins 
to be, in respect of the mind of God. So we are agreed in that 
point. 

Hyl. What shall we make then of the creation? 

Phil. May we not understand it to have been entirely in respect 
of finite spirits; so that things, with regard to us, may properly be 
said to begin their existence, or be created, when God decreed they 
should become perceptible to intelligent creatures, in that order and 
manner which He then established, and we now call the laws of 
nature ? You may call this a relative, or hypothetical existence if you 
please. But, so long as it supplies us with the most natural, obvious, 
and literal sense of the Mosaic history of the creation; so long as it 
answers all the religious ends of that great article; in a word, so long 
as you can assign no other sense or meaning in its stead; why should 
we reject this? Is it to comply with a ridiculous sceptical humour 
of making everything nonsense and unintelligible? I am sure you 
cannot say it is for the glory of God. For, allowing it to be a thing 
possible and conceivable that the corporeal world should have an 
absolute existence extrinsical to the mind of God, as well as to the 
minds of all created spirits; yet how could this set forth either the 
immensity or omniscience of the Deity, or the necessary and im- 
mediate dependence of all things on Him ? Nay, would it not rather 
seem to derogate from those attributes? 

Hyl. Well, but as to this decree of God's, for making things per- 
ceptible, what say you, Philonous? Is it not plain, God did either 



276 GEORGE BERKELEY 

execute that decree from all eternity, or at some certain time began 
to will what He had not actually willed before, but only designed 
to will ? If the former, then there could be no creation, or beginning 
of existence, in finite things. If the latter, then we must acknowledge 
something new to befall the Deity; which implies a sort of change: 
and all change argues imperfection. 

Phil. Pray consider what you are doing. Is it not evident this 
objection concludes equally against a creation in any sense; nay, 
against every other act of the Deity, discoverable by the light of 
nature? None of which can we conceive, otherwise than as per- 
formed in time, and having a beginning. God is a Being of tran- 
scendent and unlimited perfe:tions: His nature, therefore, is incom- 
prehensible to finite spirits. It is not, therefore, to be expected, that 
any man, whether Materialist or Immaterialist, should have exactly 
just notions of the Deity, His attributes, and ways of operation. If 
then you would infer anything against me, your difficulty must not 
be drawn from the inadequateness of our conceptions of the Divine 
nature, which is unavoidable on any scheme; but from the denial 
of Matter, of which there is not one word, direcdy or indirectly, in 
what you have now objected. 

Hyl. I must acknowledge the difficulties you are concerned to 
clear are such only as arise from the non-existence of Matter, and 
are peculiar to that notion. So far you are in the right. But I cannot 
by any means bring myself to think there is no such peculiar repug- 
nancy between the creation and your opinion; though indeed where 
to fix it, I do not distincdy know. 

Phil. What would you have? Do I not acknowledge a twofold 
state of things the one ectypal or natural, the other archetypal and 
eternal? The former was created in time; the latter existed from 
everlasting in the mind of God. Is not this agreeable to the common 
notions of divines? or, is any more than this necessary in order to 
conceive the creation? But you suspect some peculiar repugnancy, 
though you know not where it lies. To take away all possibility 
of scruple in the case, do but consider this one point. Either you are 
not able to conceive the creation on any hypothesis whatsoever; 
and, if so, there is no ground for dislike or complaint against any 
particular opinion on that score: or you are able to conceive it; and, 



THIRD DIALOGUE 277 

if so, why not on my Principles, since thereby nothing conceivable 
is taken away? You have all along been allowed the full scope of 
sense, imagination, and reason. Whatever, therefore, you could 
before apprehend, either immediately or mediately by your senses, 
or by ratiocination from your senses; whatever you could perceive, 
imagine, or understand, remains still with you. If, therefore, the 
notion you have of the creation by other Principles be intelligible, 
you have it still upon mine; if it be not intelligible, I conceive it to 
be no notion at all; and so there is no loss of it. And indeed it seems 
to me very plain that the supposition of Matter, that is a thing 
perfectly unknown and inconceivable, cannot serve to make us con- 
ceive anything. And, I hope it need not be proved to you that if the 
existence of Matter doth not make the creation conceivable, the 
creation's being without it inconceivable can be no objection against 
its non-existence. 

Hyl. I confess, Philonous, you have almost satisfied me in this 
point of the creation. 

Phil. I would fain know why you are not quite satisfied. You tell 
me indeed of a repugnancy between the Mosaic history and Im- 
materialism: but you know not where it lies. Is this reasonable, 
Hylas ? Can you expect I should solve a difficulty without knowing 
what it is? But, to pass by all that, would not a man think you 
were assured there is no repugnancy between the received notions 
of Materialists and the inspired writings? 

Hyl. And so I am. 

Phil. Ought the historical part of Scripture to be understood in 
a plain obvious sense, or in a sense which is metaphysical and out of 
the way? 

Hyl. In the plain sense, doubtless. 

Phil. When Moses speaks of herbs, earth, water, &c. as having 
been created by God; think you not the sensible things commonly 
signified by those words are suggested to every unphilosophical 
reader ? 

Hyl. I cannot help thinking so. 

Phil. And are not all ideas, or things perceived by sense, to be 
denied a real existence by the doctrine of the Materialist? 

Hyl. This I have already acknowledged. 



278 GEORGE BERKELEY 

Phil. The creation, therefore, according to them, was not the 
creation of things sensible, which have only a relative being, but of 
certain unknown natures, which have an absolute being, wherein 
creation might terminate? 

Hyl. True. 

Phil. Is it not therefore evident the assertors of Matter destroy the 
plain obvious sense of Moses, with which their notions are utterly 
inconsistent; and instead of it obtrude on us I know not what; some- 
thing equally unintelligible to themselves and me? 

Hyl. I cannot contradict you. 

Phil. Moses tells us of a creation. A creation of what ? of unknown 
quiddities, of occasions, or substratum? No, certainly; but of things 
obvious to the senses. You must first reconcile this with your notions, 
if you expect I should be reconciled to them. 

Hyl. I see you can assault me with my own weapons. 

Phil. Then as to absolute existence; was there ever known a more 
jejune notion than that? Something it is so abstracted and unintel- 
ligible that you have frankly owned you could not conceive it, much 
less explain anything by it. But allowing Matter to exist, and the 
notion of absolute existence to be clear as light; yet, was this ever 
known to make the creation more credible? Nay, hath it not 
furnished the atheists and infidels of all ages with the most plausible 
arguments against a creation? That a corporeal substance, which 
hath an absolute existence without the minds of spirits, should be 
produced out of nothing, by the mere will of a Spirit, hath been 
looked upon as a thing so contrary to all reason, so impossible and 
absurd, that not only the most celebrated among the ancients, but 
even divers modern and Christian philosophers have thought Matter 
co-eternal with the Deity. Lay these things together, and then judge 
you whether Materialism disposes men to believe the creation of 
things. 

Hyl. I own, Philonous, I think it does not. This of the creation 
is the last objection I can think of; and I must needs own it hath 
been sufficiently answered as well as the rest. Nothing now remains 
to be overcome but a sort of unaccountable backwardness that I find 
in myself towards your notions. 



THIRD DIALOGUE 279 

Phil. When a man is swayed, he knows not why, to one side of 
the question, can this, think you, be anything else but the effect of 
prejudice, which never fails to attend old and rooted notions? And 
indeed in this respect I cannot deny the belief of Matter to have 
very much the advantage over the contrary opinion, with men of a 
learned education. 

HyL I confess it seems to be as you say. 

Phil. As a balance, therefore, to this weight of prejudice, let us 
throw into the scale the great advantages that arise from the belief 
of Immaterialism, both in regard to religion and human learning. 
The being of a God, and incorruptibility of the soul, those great 
articles of religion, are they not proved with the clearest and most 
immediate evidence ? When I say the being of a God, I do not mean 
an obscure general Cause of things, whereof we have no concep- 
tion, but God, in the strict and proper sense of the word. A Being 
whose spirituality, omnipresence, providence, omniscience, infinite 
power and goodness, are as conspicuous as the existence of sensible 
things, of which (notwithstanding the fallacious pretences and 
affected scruples of Sceptics) there is no more reason to doubt than 
of our own being. Then, with relation to human sciences. In 
Natural Philosophy, what intricacies, what obscurities, what con- 
tradictions hath the belief of Matter led men into! To say nothing 
of the numberless disputes about its extent, continuity, homogeneity, 
gravity, divisibility, &c. do they not pretend to explain all things 
by bodies operating on bodies, according to the laws of motion ? and 
yet, are they able to comprehend how one body should move an- 
other? Nay, admitting there was no difficulty in reconciling the 
notion of an inert being with a cause, or in conceiving how an 
accident might pass from one body to another; yet, by all their 
strained thoughts and extravagant suppositions, have they been able 
to reach the mechanical production of any one animal or vegetable 
body? Can they account, by the laws of motion, for sounds, tastes, 
smells, or colours; or for the regular course of things? Have they 
accounted, by physical principles, for the aptitude and contrivance 
even of the most inconsiderable parts of the universe? But, laying 
aside Matter and corporeal causes, and admitting only the efficiency 



280 GEORGE BERKELEY 

of an All-perfect Mind, are not all the effects of nature easy and in- 
telligible? If the phenomena are nothing else but ideas; God is a 
spirit, but Matter an unintelligent, unperceiving being. If they dem- 
onstrate an unlimited power in their cause; God is active and omnip- 
otent, but Matter an inert mass. If the order, regularity, and use- 
fulness of them can never be sufficiently admired; God is infinitely 
wise and provident, but Matter destitute of all contrivance and de- 
sign. These surely are great advantages in Physics. Not to mention 
that the apprehension of a distant Deity naturally disposes men to a 
negligence in their moral actions; which they would be more cau- 
tious of, in case they thought Him immediately present, and acting 
on their minds, without the interposition of Matter, or unthinking 
second causes. Then in Metaphysics: what difficulties concerning 
entity in abstract, substantial forms, hylarchic principles, plastic na- 
tures, substance and accident, principle of individuation, possibility 
of Matter's thinking, origin of ideas, the manner how two independ- 
ent substances so widely different as Spirit and Matter, should mu- 
tually operate on each other ? what difficulties, I say, and endless dis- 
quisitions, concerning these and innumerable other the like points, 
do we escape, by supposing only Spirits and ideas? Even the Mathe- 
matics themselves, if we take away the absolute existence of extended 
things, become much more clear and easy; the most shocking para- 
doxes and intricate speculations in those sciences depending on the 
infinite divisibility of finite extension; which depends on that sup- 
position But what need is there to insist on the particular sciences? 
Is not that opposition to all science whatsoever, that frenzy of the an- 
cient and modern Sceptics, built on the same foundation? Or can 
you produce so much as one argument against the reality of cor- 
poreal things, or in behalf of that avowed utter ignorance of their 
natures, which doth not suppose their reality to consist in an external 
absolute existence? Upon this supposition, indeed, the objections 
from the change of colours in a pigeon's neck, or the appearance of 
the broken oar in the water, must be allowed to have weight. But 
these and the like objections vanish, if we do not maintain the being 
of absolute external originals, but place the reality of things in ideas, 
fleeting indeed, and changeable; however, not changed at random, 
but according to the fixed order of nature. For, herein consists that 
constancy and truth of things which secures all the concerns of life, 



THIRD DIALOGUE 28 1 

and distinguishes that which is real from the irregular visions of 
the fancy. 

Hyl. I agree to all you have now said, and must own that nothing 
can incline me to embrace your opinion more than the advantages I 
see it is attended with. I am by nature lazy; and this would be a 
mighty abridgment in knowledge. What doubts, what hypotheses, 
what labyrinths of amusement, what fields of disputation, what an 
ocean of false learning, may be avoided by that single notion of 
Immaterialism! 

Phil. After all, is there anything farther remaining to be done? 
You may remember you promised to embrace that opinion which 
upon examination should appear most agreeable to Common Sense 
and remote from Scepticism. This, by your own confession, is that 
which denies Matter, or the absolute existence of corporeal things. 
Nor is this all; the same notion has been proved several ways, viewed 
in different lights, pursued in its consequences, and all objections 
against it cleared. Can there be a greater evidence of its truth ? or is 
it possible it should have all the marks of a true opinion and yet be 
false? 

Hyl. I own myself entirely satisfied for the present in all respects. 
But, what security can I have that I shall still continue the same 
full assent to your opinion, and that no unthought-of objection or 
difficulty will occur hereafter? 

Phil. Pray, Hylas, do you in other cases, when a point is once evi- 
dently proved, withhold your consent on account of objections or 
difficulties it may be liable to? Are the difficulties that attend the 
doctrine of incommensurable quantities, of the angle of contact, of 
the asymptotes to curves, or the like, sufficient to make you hold out 
against mathematical demonstration? Or will you disbelieve the 
Providence of God, because there may be some particular things 
which you know not how to reconcile with it ? If there are difficulties 
attending Immaterialism, there are at the same time direct and evi- 
dent proofs of it. But for the existence of Matter there is not one proof, 
and far more numerous and insurmountable objections lie against it. 
But where are those mighty difficulties you insist on? Alas! you 
know not where or what they are; something which may possibly 
occur hereafter. If this be a sufficient pretence for withholding your 



282 GEORGE BERKELEY 

full assent, you should never yield it to any proposition, how free 
soever from exceptions, how clearly and solidly soever demonstrated. 

Hyl. You have satisfied me, Philonous. 

Phil. But, to arm you against all future objections, do but consider: 
That which bears equally hard on two contradictory opinions can be 
proof against neither. Whenever, therefore, any difficulty occurs, try 
if you can find a solution for it on the hypothesis of the Materialists. 
Be not deceived by words; but sound your own thoughts. And in 
case you cannot conceive it easier by the help of Materialism, it is 
plain it can be no objection against Immaterialism. Had you pro- 
ceeded all along by this rule, you would probably have spared your- 
self abundance of trouble in objecting; since of all your difficulties 
I challenge you to shew one that is explained by Matter : nay, which 
is not more unintelligible with than without that supposition; and 
consequently makes rather against than for it. You should consider, 
in each particular, whether the difficulty arises from the non-existence 
of Matter. If it doth not, you might as well argue from the infinite 
divisibility of extension against the Divine prescience, as from such 
a difficulty against Immaterialism. And yet, upon recollection, I be- 
lieve you will find this to have been often, if not always, the case. 
You should likewise take heed not to argue on a petitio principii. 
One is apt to say The unknown substances ought to be esteemed 
real things, rather than the ideas in our minds: and who can tell but 
the unthinking external substance may concur, as a cause or in- 
strument, in the productions of our ideas ? But is not this proceeding 
on a supposition that there are such external substances? And to 
suppose this, is it not begging the question? But, above all things, 
you should beware of imposing on yourself by that vulgar sophism 
which is called ignoratio elenchi. You talked often as if you thought 
I maintained the non-existence of Sensible Things. Whereas in truth 
no one can be more thoroughly assured of their existence than I am. 
And it is you who doubt; I should have said, positively deny it. 
Everything that is seen, felt, heard, or any way perceived by the 
senses, is, on the principles I embrace, a real being; but not on yours. 
Remember, the Matter you contend for is an Unknown Somewhat 
(if indeed it may be termed somewhat), which is quite stripped of all 
sensible qualities, and can neither be perceived by sense, nor appre- 



THIRD DIALOGUE 283 

hended by the mind. Remember I say, that it is not any object which 
is hard or soft, hot or cold, blue or white, round or square, &c. For 
all these things I affirm do exist. Though indeed I deny they have an 
existence distinct from being perceived; or that they exist out of all 
minds whatsoever. Think on these points; let them be attentively 
considered and still kept in view. Otherwise you will not compre- 
hend the state of the question; without which your objections will 
always be wide of the mark, and, instead of mine, may possibly be 
directed (as more than once they have been) against your own 
notions. 

Hyl. I must needs own, Philonous, nothing seems to have kept me 
from agreeing with you more than this same mistaking the question. 
In denying Matter, at first glimpse I am tempted to imagine you deny 
the things we see and feel: but, upon reflexion, find there is no 
ground for it. What think you, therefore, of retaining the name 
Matter, and applying it to sensible things? This may be done with- 
out any change in your sentiments: and, believe me, it would be a 
means of reconciling them to some persons who may be more 
shocked at an innovation in words than in opinion. 

Phil. With all my heart: retain the word Matter, and apply it to 
the objects of sense, if you please; provided you do not attribute to 
them any subsistence distinct from their being perceived. I shall 
never quarrel with you for an expression. Matter, or material sub- 
stance, are terms introduced by philosophers; and, as used by them, 
imply a sort of independency, or a subsistence distinct from being 
perceived by a mind: but are never used by common people; or, if 
ever, it is to signify the immediate objects of sense. One would think, 
therefore, so long as the names of all particular things, with the 
terms sensible, substance, body, stuff, and the like, are retained, the 
word Matter should be never missed in common talk. And in phil- 
osophical discourses it seems the best way to leave it quite out : since 
there is not, perhaps, any one thing that hath more favoured and 
strengthened the depraved bent of the mind towards Atheism than 
the use of that general confused term. 

Hyl. Well but, Philonous, since I am content to give up the notion 
of an unthinking substance exterior to the mind, I think you ought 
not to deny me the privilege of using the word Matter as I please, 



284 GEORGE BERKELEY 

and annexing it to a collection of sensible qualities subsisting only in 
the mind. I freely own there is no other substance, in a strict sense, 
than Spirit. But I have been so long accustomed to the term Matter 
that I know not how to part with it : to say, there is no Matter in the 
world, is still shocking to me. Whereas to say There is no Matter, 
if by that term be meant an unthinking substance existing without 
the mind; but if by Matter is meant some sensible thing, whose exist- 
ence consists in being perceived, then there is Matter: this distinc- 
tion gives it quite another turn; and men will come into your notions 
with small difficulty, when they are proposed in that manner. For, 
after all, the controversy about Matter in the strict acceptation of it, 
lies altogether between you and the philosophers: whose principles, 
I acknowledge, are not near so natural, or so agreeable to the common 
sense of mankind, and Holy Scripture, as yours. There is nothing 
we either desire or shun but as it makes, or is apprehended to make, 
some part of our happiness or misery. But what hath happiness or 
misery, joy or grief, pleasure or pain, to do with Absolute Existence; 
or with unknown entities, abstracted from all relation to us? It is 
evident, things regard us only as they are pleasing or displeasing: 
and they can please or displease only so far forth as they are per- 
ceived. Farther, therefore, we are not concerned; and thus far you 
leave things as you found them. Yet still there is something new in 
this doctrine. It is plain, I do not now think with the Philosophers; 
nor yet altogether with the vulgar. I would know how the case 
stands in that respect; precisely, what you have added to, or altered 
in my former notions. 

Phil. I do not pretend to be a setter-up of new notions. My en- 
deavours tend only to unite, and place in a clearer light, that truth 
which was before shared between the vulgar and the philosophers: 
the former being of opinion, that those things they immediately per- 
ceive are the real things; and the latter, that the things immediately 
perceived are ideas, which exist only in the mind. Which two no- 
tions put together, do, in effect, constitute the substance of what I 
advance. 

Hyl. I have been a long time distrusting my senses : methought I 
saw things by a dim light and through false glasses. Now the 
glasses are removed and a new light breaks in upon my under- 



THIRD DIALOGUE 285 

standing. I am clearly convinced that I see things in their native 
forms, and am no longer in pain about their unknown natures or 
absolute existence. This is the state I find myself in at present; 
though, indeed, the course that brought me to it I do not yet thor- 
oughly comprehend. You set out upon the same principles that 
Academics, Cartesians, and the like sects usually do; and for a long 
time it looked as if you were advancing their philosophical Scepti- 
cism : but, in the end, your conclusions are directly opposite to theirs. 
Phil. You see, Hylas, the water of yonder fountain, how it is forced 
upwards, in a round column, to a certain height; at which it breaks, 
and falls back into the basin from whence it rose: its ascent, as well 
as descent, proceeding from the same uniform law or principle of 
gravitation. Just so, the same Principles which, at first view, lead to 
Scepticism, pursued to a certain point, bring men back to Common 
Sense. 



AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING 
HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



BY 
DAVID HUME 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

THE main facts of the life of David Hume will be found in the intro- 
ductory note to his "Standard of Taste" in the volume of "English 
Essays" in the Harvard Classics. 

Hume's most elaborate philosophical work was his "Treatise of Human 
Nature," published in three volumes in 1739-40. This work had been 
written between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five; and in the 
"Advertisement" prefixed to the edition of his "Collected Essays," pub- 
lished the year after his death, he spoke slightingly of the "Treatise" as 
a juvenile work, marred by negligences both in reasoning and expression; 
and desired that the "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" and 
the "Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals" should "alone be 
regarded as containing his philosophical sentiments and principles." 

While it is possible to take this depreciation of the "Treatise" too 
seriously, since it contains much of great philosophic importance which 
does not appear in the "Enquiries," yet the later works do represent his 
more mature thinking, and have the advantage of a much better style, 
at once more precise and more easily intelligible. To understand fully 
Hume's place in the history of European philosophy, it is still necessary 
to study the "Treatise"; but from the "Enquiry Concerning Human 
Understanding" one can gather much of his general attitude and method 
of thinking; while in such sections as that on "Miracles" we have an 
explanation of the bitter animosity that he roused in orthodox circles. 



AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING 
HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 

SECTION I 

OF THE DIFFERENT SPECIES OF PHILOSOPHY 

MORAL philosophy, or the science of human nature, may be 
treated after two different manners; each of which has its 
peculiar merit, and may contribute to the entertainment, in- 
struction, and reformation of mankind. The one considers man 
chiefly as born for action; and as influenced in his measures by 
taste and sentiment; pursuing one object, and avoiding another, ac- 
cording to the value which these objects seem to possess, and accord- 
ing to the light in which they present themselves. As virtue, of 
all objects, is allowed to be the most valuable, this species of philoso- 
phers paint her in the most amiable colours; borrowing all helps 
from poetry and eloquence, and treating their subject in an easy 
and obvious manner, and such as is best fitted to please the imagina- 
tion, and engage the affections. They select the most striking ob- 
servations and instances from common life; place opposite characters 
in a proper contrast; and alluring us into the paths of virtue by the 
views of glory and happiness, direct our steps in these paths by the 
soundest precepts and most illustrious examples. They make us feel 
the difference between vice and virtue; they excite and regulate our 
sentiments; and so they can but bend our hearts to the love of probity 
and true honour, they think, that they have fully attained the end of 
all their labours. 

The other species of philosophers consider man in the light of a 
reasonable rather than an active being, and endeavour to form his 
understanding more than cultivate his manners. They regard human 
nature as a subject of speculation; and with a narrow scrutiny exam- 
ine it, in order to find those principles, which regulate our under- 

289 



290 DAVID HUME 

standing, excite our sentiments, and make us approve or blame any 
particular object, action, or behaviour. They think it a reproach to 
all literature, that philosophy should not yet have fixed, beyond con- 
troversy, the foundation of morals, reasoning, and criticism; and 
should for ever talk of truth and falsehood, vice and virtue, beauty 
and deformity, without being able to determine the source of these 
distinctions. While they attempt this arduous task, they are deterred 
by no difficulties; but proceeding from particular instances to general 
principles, they still push on their enquiries to principles more gen- 
eral, and rest not satisfied till they arrive at those original principles, 
by which, in every science, all human curiosity must be bounded. 
Though their speculations seem abstract, and even unintelligible to 
common readers, they aim at the approbation of the learned and the 
wise; and think themselves sufficiently compensated for the labour 
of their whole lives, if they can discover some hidden truths, which 
may contribute to the instruction of posterity. 

It is certain that the easy and obvious philosophy will always, 
with the generality of mankind, have the preference above the ac- 
curate and abstruse; and by many will be recommended, not only as 
more agreeable, but more useful than the other. It enters more into 
common life; moulds the heart and affections; and, by touching those 
principles which actuate men, reforms their conduct, and brings 
them nearer to that model of perfection which it describes. On the 
contrary, the abstruse philosophy, being founded on a turn of mind, 
which cannot enter into business and action, vanishes when the phi- 
losopher leaves the shade, and comes into open day; nor can its prin- 
ciples easily retain any influence over our conduct and behaviour. 
The feelings of our heart, the agitation of our passions, the vehe- 
mence of our affections, dissipate all its conclusions, and reduce the 
profound philosopher to a mere plebeian. 

This also must be confessed, that the most durable, as well as justest 
fame, has been acquired by the easy philosophy, and that abstract 
reasoners seem hitherto to have enjoyed only a momentary reputa- 
tion, from the caprice or ignorance of their own age, but have not 
been able to support their renown with more equitable posterity. It 
is easy for a profound philosopher to commit a mistake in his subtile 
reasonings; and one mistake is the necessary parent of another, while 



SPECIES OF PHILOSOPHY 291 

he pushes on his consequences, and is not deterred from embracing 
any conclusion, by its unusual appearance, or its contradiction to 
popular opinion. But a philosopher, who purposes only to repre- 
sent the common sense of mankind in more beautiful and more en- 
gaging colours, if by accident he falls into error, goes no farther; but 
renewing his appeal to common sense, and the natural sentiments 
of the mind, returns into the right path, and secures himself from 
any dangerous illusions. The fame of Cicero flourishes at present; 
but that of Aristotle is utterly decayed. La Bruyere passes the seas, 
and still maintains his reputation: but the glory of Malebranche is 
confined to his own nation, and to his own age. And Addison, per- 
haps, will be read with pleasure, when Locke shall be entirely for- 
gotten. 

The mere philosopher is a character, which is commonly but little 
acceptable in the world, as being supposed to contribute nothing 
either to the advantage or pleasure of society; while he lives remote 
from communication with mankind, and is wrapped up in principles 
and notions equally remote from their comprehension. On the 
other hand, the mere ignorant is still more despised; nor is any thing 
deemed a surer sign of an illiberal genius in an age and nation where 
the sciences flourish, than to be entirely destitute of all relish for those 
noble entertainments. The most perfect character is supposed to lie 
between those extremes; retaining an equal ability and taste for 
books, company, and business; preserving in conversation that dis- 
cernment and delicacy which arise from polite letters; and in busi- 
ness, that probity and accuracy which are the natural result of a just 
philosophy. In order to diffuse and cultivate so accomplished a char- 
acter, nothing can be more useful than compositions of the easy style 
and manner, which draw not too much from life, require no deep 
application or retreat to be comprehended, and send back the stu- 
dent among mankind full of noble sentiments and wise precepts, 
applicable to every exigence of human life. By means of such com- 
positions, virtue becomes amiable, science agreeable, company in- 
structive, and retirement entertaining. 

Man is a reasonable being; and as such, receives from science his 
proper food and nourishment: But so narrow are the bounds of 
human understanding, that little satisfaction can be hoped for in this 



292 DAVID HUME 

particular, either from the extent of security or his acquisitions. Man 
is a sociable, no less than a reasonable being: but neither can he 
always enjoy company agreeable and amusing, or preserve the proper 
relish for them. Man is also an active being; and from that disposi- 
tion, as well as from the various necessities of human life, must sub- 
mit to business and occupation : but the mind requires some relaxa- 
tion, and cannot always support its bent to care and industry. It 
seems, then, that nature has pointed out a mixed kind of life as most 
suitable to the human race, and secretly admonished them to allow 
none of these biases to draw too much, so as to incapacitate them 
for other occupations and entertainments. Indulge your passion for 
science, says she, but let your science be human, and such as may have 
a direct reference to action and society. Abstruse thought and pro- 
found researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive 
melancholy which they introduce, by the endless uncertainty in 
which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pre- 
tended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a 
philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man. 

Were the generality of mankind contented to prefer the easy phi- 
losophy to the abstract and profound, without throwing any blame or 
contempt on the latter, it might not be improper, perhaps, to comply 
with this general opinion, and allow every man to enjoy, without 
opposition, his own taste and sentiment. But as the matter is often 
carried farther, even to the absolute rejecting of all profound reason- 
ings, or what is commonly called metaphysics, we shall now proceed 
to consider what can reasonably be pleaded in their behalf. 

We may begin with observing, that one considerable advantage, 
which results from the accurate and abstract philosophy, is, its sub- 
serviency to the easy and humane; which, without the former, can 
never attain a sufficient degree of exactness in its sentiments, pre- 
cepts, or reasonings. All polite letters are nothing but pictures of 
human life in various attitudes and situations; and inspire us with 
different sentiments, of praise or blame, admiration or ridicule, ac- 
cording to the qualities of the object, which they set before us. An 
artist must be better qualified to succeed in this undertaking, who, 
besides a delicate taste and a quick apprehension, possesses an ac- 
curate knowledge of the internal fabric, the operations of the under- 



SPECIES OF PHILOSOPHY 293 

standing, the workings of the passions, and -the various species of 
sentiment which discriminate vice and virtue. How painful soever 
this inward search or enquiry may appear, it becomes, in some meas- 
ure, requisite to those, who would describe with success the obvious 
and outward appearances of life and manners. The anatomist pre- 
sents to the eye the most hideous and disagreeable objects; but his 
science is useful to the painter in delineating even a Venus or an 
Helen. While the latter employs all the richest colours of his art, 
and gives his figures the most graceful and engaging airs; he must 
still carry his attention to the inward structure of the human body, 
the position of the muscles, the fabric of the bones, and the use and 
figure of every part or organ. Accuracy is, in every case, advan- 
tageous to beauty, and just reasoning to delicate sentiment. In vain 
would we exalt the one by depreciating the other. 

Besides, we may observe, in every art or profession, even those 
which most concern life or action, that a spirit of accuracy, however 
acquired, carries all of them nearer their perfection, and renders them 
more subservient to the interests of society. And though a philoso- 
pher may live remote from business, the genius of philosophy, if 
carefully cultivated by several, must gradually diffuse itself through- 
out the whole society, and bestow a similar correctness on every art 
and calling. The politician will acquire greater foresight and sub- 
tility, in the subdividing and balancing of power; the lawyer more 
method and finer principles in his reasonings; and the general more 
regularity in his discipline, and more caution in his plans and opera- 
tions. The stability of modern governments above the ancient, and 
the accuracy of modern philosophy, have improved, and probably 
will still improve, by similar gradations. 

Were there no advantage to be reaped from these studies, beyond 
the gratification of an innocent curiosity, yet ought not even this to 
be despised; as being one accession to those few safe and harmless 
pleasures, which are bestowed on the human race. The sweetest and 
most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science 
and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstructions in 
this way, or open up any new prospect, ought so far to be esteemed 
a benefactor to mankind. And though these researches may appear 
painful and fatiguing, it is with some minds as with some bodies, 



294 DAVID HUME 

which being endowed with vigorous and florid health, require severe 
exercise, and reap a pleasure from what, to the generality o man- 
kind, may seem burdensome and laborious. Obscurity, indeed, is 
painful to the mind as well as to the eye; but to bring light from ob- 
scurity, by whatever labour, must needs be delightful and rejoicing. 

But this obscurity in the profound and abstract philosophy, is ob- 
jected to, not only as painful and fatiguing, but as the inevitable 
source of uncertainty and error. Here indeed lies the justest and 
most plausible objection against a considerable part of metaphysics, 
that they are not properly a science; but arise either from the fruit- 
less efforts of human vanity, which would penetrate into subjects 
utterly inaccessible to the understanding, or from the craft of popular 
superstitions, which, being unable to defend themselves on fair 
ground, raise these intangling brambles to cover and protect their 
weakness. Chaced from the open country, these robbers fly into the 
forest, and lie in wait to break in upon every unguarded avenue of 
the mind, and overwhelm it with religious fears and prejudices. The 
stoutest antagonist, if he remit his watch a moment, is oppressed. 
And many, through cowardice and folly, open the gates to the ene- 
mies, and willingly receive them with reverence and submission, as 
their legal sovereigns. 

But is this a sufficient reason, why philosophers should desist from 
such researches, and leave superstition still in possession of her re- 
treat ? Is it not proper to draw an opposite conclusion, and perceive 
the necessity of carrying the war into the most secret recesses of the 
enemy? In vain do we hope, that men, from frequent disappoint- 
ment, will at last abandon such airy sciences, and discover the proper 
province of human reason. For, besides, that many persons find too 
sensible an interest in perpetually recalling such topics; besides this, 
I say, the motive of blind despair can never reasonably have place 
in the sciences; since, however unsuccessful former attempts may 
have proved, there is still room to hope, that the industry, good for- 
tune, or improved sagacity of succeeding generations may reach 
discoveries unknown to former ages. Each adventurous genius will 
still leap at the arduous prize, and find himself stimulated, rather 
than discouraged, by the failures of his predecessors; while he hopes 
that the glory of achieving so hard an adventure is reserved for him 



SPECIES OF PHILOSOPHY 295 

alone. The only method of freeing learning, at once, from these ab- 
struse questions, is to enquire seriously into the nature of human 
understanding, and show, from an exact analysis of its powers and 
capacity, that it is by no means fitted for such remote and abstruse 
subjects. We must submit to this fatigue in order to live at ease ever 
after : and must cultivate true metaphysics with some care, in order to 
destroy the false and adulterate. Indolence, which, to some persons, 
affords a safeguard against this deceitful philosophy, is, with others, 
overbalanced by curiosity ; and despair, which, at some moments, pre- 
vails, may give place afterwards to sanguine hopes and expectations. 
Accurate and just reasoning is the only catholic remedy, fitted for all 
persons and all dispositions; and is alone able to subvert that abstruse 
philosophy and metaphysical jargon, which being mixed up with 
popular superstition, renders it in a manner impenetrable to careless 
reasoners, and gives it the air of science and wisdom. 

Besides this advantage of rejecting, after deliberate enquiry, the 
most uncertain and disagreeable part of learning, there are many 
positive advantages, which result from an accurate scrutiny into the 
powers and faculties of human nature. It is remarkable concerning 
the operations of the mind, that, though most intimately present to 
us, yet, whenever they become the object of reflexion, they seem 
involved in obscurity; nor can the eye readily find those lines and 
boundaries, which discriminate and distinguish them. The objects 
are too fine to remain long in the same aspect or situation; and must 
be apprehended in an instant, by a superior penetration, derived 
from nature, and improved by habit and reflexion. It becomes, 
therefore, no inconsiderable part of science barely to know the 
different operations of the mind, to separate them from each other, 
to class them under their proper heads, and to correct all that seeming 
disorder, in which they lie involved, when made the object of re- 
flexion and enquiry. This talk of ordering and distinguishing, which 
has no merit, when performed with regard to external bodies, the 
objects of our senses, rises in its value, when directed towards the 
operations of the mind, in proportion to the difficulty and labour, 
which we meet with in performing it. And if we can go no farther 
than this mental geography, or delineation of the distinct parts and 
powers of the mind, it is at least a satisfaction to go so far; and the 



296 DAVID HUME 

more obvious this science may appear (and it is by no means 
obvious) the more contemptible still must the ignorance of it be 
esteemed, in all pretenders to learning and philosophy. 

Nor can there remain any suspicion, that this science is uncertain 
and chimerical; unless we should entertain such a scepticism as is 
entirely subversive of all speculation, and even action. It cannot be 
doubted, that the mind is endowed with several powers and faculties, 
that these powers are distinct from each other, that what is really 
distinct to the immediate perception may be distinguished by re- 
flexion; and consequently, that there is a truth and falsehood in all 
propositions on this subject, and a truth and falsehood, which lie not 
beyond the compass of human understanding. There are many ob- 
vious distinctions of this kind, such as those between the will and un- 
derstanding, the imagination and passions, which fall within the 
comprehension of every human creature; and the finer and more 
philosophical distinctions are no less real and certain, though more 
difficult to be comprehended. Some instances, especially late ones, of 
success in these enquiries, may give us a juster notion of the certainty 
and solidity of this branch of learning. And shall we esteem it 
worthy the labour of a philosopher to give us a true system of the 
planets, and adjust the position and order of those remote bodies; 
while we affect to overlook those, who, with so much success, 
delineate the parts of the mind, in which we are so intimately con- 
cerned ? 

But may we not hope, that philosophy, cultivated with care, and 
encouraged by the attention of the public, may carry its researches 
still farther, and discover, at least in some degree, the secret springs 
and principles, by which the human mind is actuated in its opera- 
tions? Astronomers had long contented themselves with proving, 
from the phaenomena, the true motions, order, and magnitude of 
the heavenly bodies: till a philosopher, at last, arose, who seems, 
from the happiest reasoning, to have also determined the laws and 
forces, by which the revolutions of the planets are governed and di- 
rected. The like has been performed with regard to other parts of 
nature. And there is no reason to despair of equal success in our 
enquiries concerning the mental powers and economy, if prosecuted 
with equal capacity and caution. It is probable, that one operation 



SPECIES OF PHILOSOPHY 297 

and principle of the mind depends on another; which, again, may be 
resolved into one more general and universal: and how far these 
researches may possibly be carried, it will be difficult for us, before, or 
even after, a careful trial, exactly to determine. This is certain, that 
attempts of this kind are every day made even by those who philos- 
ophize the most negligently : and nothing can be more requisite than 
to enter upon the enterprize with thorough care and attention; that, 
if it lie within the compass of human understanding, it may at last 
be happily achieved; if not, it may, however, be rejected with some 
confidence and security. This last conclusion, surely, is not desirable; 
nor ought it to be embraced too rashly. For how much must we di- 
minish from the beauty and value of this species of philosophy, upon 
such a supposition ? Moralists have hitherto been accustomed, when 
they considered the vast multitude and diversity of those actions that 
excite our approbation or dislike, to search for some common princi- 
ple, on which this variety of sentiments might depend. And though 
they have sometimes carried the matter too far, by their passion for 
some one general principle; it must, however, be confessed, that they 
are excusable in expecting to find some general principles, into which 
all the vices and virtues were justly to be resolved. The like has been 
the endeavour of critics, logicians, and even politicians: nor have 
their attempts been wholly unsuccessful; though perhaps longer 
time, greater accuracy, and more ardent application may bring these 
sciences still nearer their perfection. To throw up at once all preten- 
sions of this kind may justly be deemed more rash, precipitate, and 
dogmatical, than even the boldest and most affirmative philosophy, 
that has ever attempted to impose its crude dictates and principles 
on mankind. 

What though these reasonings concerning human nature seem 
abstract, and of difficult comprehension? This affords no presump- 
tion of their falsehood. On the contrary, it seems impossible, that 
what has hitherto escaped so many wise and profound philosophers 
can be very obvious and easy. And whatever pains these researches 
may cost us, we may think ourselves sufficiently rewarded, not only in 
point of profit but of pleasure, if, by that means, we can make any 
addition to our stock of knowledge, in subjects of such unspeakable 
importance. 



298 DAVID HUME 

But as, after all, the abstractedness of these speculations is no 
recommendation, but rather a disadvantage to them, and as this diffi- 
culty may perhaps be surmounted by care and art, and the avoiding 
of all unnecessary detail, we have, in the following enquiry, at- 
tempted to throw some light upon subjects, from which uncer- 
tainty has hitherto deterred the wise, and obscurity the ignorant. 
Happy, if we can unite the boundaries of the different species of 
philosophy, by reconciling profound enquiry with clearness, and 
truth with novelty! And still more happy, if, reasoning in this easy 
manner, we can undermine the foundations of an abstruse philo- 
sophy, which seems to have hitherto served only as a shelter to super- 
stition, and a cover to absurdity and error! 



SECTION II 

OF THE ORIGIN OF IDEAS 

EVERY one will readily allow, that there is a considerable dif- 
ference between the perceptions of the mind, when a man 
feels the pain of excessive heat, or the pleasure of moderate 
warmth, and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensa- 
tion, or anticipates it by his imagination. These faculties may mimic 
or copy the perceptions of the senses; but they never can entirely 
reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment. The utmost 
we say of them, even when they operate with greatest vigour, is, 
that they represent their object in so lively a manner, that we could 
almost say we feel or see it: But, except the mind be disordered by 
disease or madness, they never can arrive at such a pitch of vivacity, 
as to render these perceptions altogether undistinguishable. All the 
colours of poetry, however splendid, can never paint natural objects 
in such a manner as to make the description be taken for a real land- 
skip. The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation. 

We may observe a like distinction to run through all the other 
perceptions of the mind. A man in a fit of anger, is actuated in a 
very different manner from one who only thinks of that emotion. If 
you tell me, that any person is in love, I easily understand your mean- 
ing, and from a just conception of his situation; but never can mis- 
take that conception for the real disorders and agitations of the pas- 
sion. When we reflect on our past sentiments and affections, our 
thought is a faithful mirror, and copies its objects truly; but the 
colours which it employs are faint and dull, in comparison of those 
in which our original perceptions were clothed. It requires no nice 
discernment or metaphysical head to mark the distinction between 
them. 

Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into 
two classes or species, which are distinguished by their different de- 
grees of force and vivacity. The less forcible and lively are commonly 

299 



300 DAVID HUME 

denominated Thoughts or Ideas. The other species want a name in 
our language, and in most others; I suppose, because it was not 
requisite for any, but philosophical purposes, to rank them under a 
general term or appellation. Let us, therefore, use a little freedom, 
and call them Impressions; employing that word in a sense somewhat 
different from the usual. By the term impression, then, I mean all 
our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or 
hate, or desire, or will. And impressions are distinguished from ideas, 
which are the less lively perceptions, of which we are conscious, 
when we reflect on any of those sensations or movements above 
mentioned. 

Nothing, at first view, may seem more unbounded than the 
thought of man, which not only escapes all human power and au- 
thority, but is not even restrained within the limits of nature and 
reality. To form monsters, and join incongruous shapes and ap- 
pearances, costs the imagination no more trouble than to conceive 
the most natural and familiar objects. And while the body is con- 
fined to one planet, along which it creeps with pain and difficulty; 
the thought can in an instant transport us into the most distant 
regions of the universe; or even beyond the universe, into the un- 
bounded chaos, where nature is supposed to lie in total confusion. 
What never was seen, or heard of, may yet be conceived; nor is any 
thing beyond the power of thought, except what implies an absolute 
contradiction. 

But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty, 
we shall find, upon a nearer examination, that it is really confined 
within very narrow limits, and that all this creative power of the 
mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, trans- 
posing, augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the 
senses and experience. When we think of a golden mountain, we 
only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain, with which we 
were formerly acquainted. A virtuous horse we can conceive; be- 
cause, from our own feeling, we can conceive virtue; and this we 
may unite to the figure and shape of a horse, which is an animal 
familiar to us. In short, all the materials of thinking are derived 
either from our outward or inward sentiment: the mixture and 



ORIGIN OF IDEAS 30 1 

composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Or, to ex- 
press myself in philosophical language, all our ideas or more feeble 
perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones. 

To prove this, the two following arguments will, I hope, be suffi- 
cient. First, when we analyze our thoughts or ideas, however com- 
pounded or sublime, we always find that they resolve themselves into 
such simple ideas as were copied from a precedent feeling or senti- 
ment. Even those ideas, which, at first view, seem the most wide 
of this origin, are found, upon a nearer scrutiny, to be derived from 
it. The idea of God, as meaning an infinitely intelligent, wise, and 
good Being, arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind, 
and augmenting, without limit, those qualities of goodness and wis- 
dom. We may prosecute this enquiry to what length we please; 
where we shall always find, that every idea which we examine is 
copied from a similar impression. Those who would assert that this 
position is not universally true nor without exception, have only one, 
and that an easy method of refuting it; by producing that idea, 
which, in their opinion, is not derived from this source. It will then 
be incumbent on us, if we would maintain our doctrine, to produce 
the impression, or lively perception, which corresponds to it. 

Secondly. If it happen, from a defect of the organ, that a man is 
not susceptible of any species of sensation, we always find that he is 
as little susceptible of the correspondent ideas. A blind man can 
form no notion of colours; a deaf man of sounds. Restore either of 
them that sense in which he is deficient; by opening this new inlet 
for his sensations, you also open an inlet for the ideas; and he finds 
no difficulty in conceiving these objects. The case is the same, if the 
object, proper for exciting any sensation, has never been applied to 
the organ. A Laplander or Negro has no notion of the relish of wine. 
And though there are few or no instances of a like deficiency in the 
mind, where a person has never felt or is wholly incapable of a senti- 
ment or passion that belongs to his species; yet we find the same 
observation to take place in a less degree. A man of mild manners 
can form no idea of inveterate revenge or cruelty; nor can a selfish 
heart easily conceive the heights of friendship and generosity. It is 
readily allowed, that other beings may possess many senses of which 



3O2 DAVID HUME 

we can have no conception; because the ideas of them have never 
been introduced to us in the only manner by which an idea can have 
access to the mind, to wit, by the actual feeling and sensation. 

There is, however, one contradictory phenomenon, which may 
prove that it is not absolutely impossible for ideas to arise, inde- 
pendent of their correspondent impressions. I believe it will readily 
be allowed, that the several distinct ideas of colour, which enter by 
the eye, or those of sound, which are conveyed by the ear, are really 
different from each other; though, at the same time, resembling. 
Now if this be true of different colours, it must be no less so of the 
different shades of the same colour; and each shade produces a dis- 
tinct idea, independent of the rest. For if this should be denied, it is 
possible, by the continual gradation of shades, to run a colour in- 
sensibly into what is most remote from it; and if you will not allow 
any of the means to be different, you cannot, without absurdity, deny 
the extremes to be the same. Suppose, therefore, a person to have 
enjoyed his sight for thirty years, and to have become perfectly ac- 
quainted with colours of all kinds except one particular shade of 
blue, for instance, which it never has been his fortune to meet with. 
Let all the different shades of that colour, except that single one, be 
placed before him, descending gradually from the deepest to the 
lightest; it is plain that he will perceive a blank, where that shade is 
wanting, and will be sensible that there is a greater distance in that 
place between the contiguous colour than in any other. Now I ask, 
whether it be possible for him, from his own imagination, to supply 
this deficiency, and raise up to himself the idea of that particular 
shade, though it had never been conveyed to him by his senses? I 
believe there are few but will be of opinion that he can : and this may 
serve as a proof that the simple ideas are not always, in every instance, 
derived from the correspondent impressions; though this instance is 
so singular, that it is scarcely worth our observing, and does not merit 
that for it alone we should alter our general maxim. 

Here, therefore, is a proposition, which not only seems, in itself, 
simple and intelligible; but, if a proper use were made of it, might 
render every dispute equally intelligible, and banish all that jargon, 
which has so long taken possession of metaphysical reasonings, and 
drawn disgrace upon them. All ideas, especially abstract ones, are 



ORIGIN OF IDEAS 303 

naturally faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them: 
they are apt to be confounded with other resembling ideas; and when 
we have often employed any term, though without a distinct mean- 
ing, we are apt to imagine it has a determinate idea annexed to it. 
On the contrary, all impressions, that is, all sensations, either out- 
ward or inward, are strong and vivid: the limits between them are 
more exactly determined; nor is it easy to fall into any error or 
mistake with regard to them. When we entertain therefore, any 
suspicion that a philosophical term is employed without any mean- 
ing or idea (as is but too frequent), we need but enquire, from what 
impression is that supposed idea derived? And if it be impossible to 
assign any, this will serve to confirm our suspicion. By bringing 
ideas into so clear a light we may reasonably hope to remove all dis- 
pute, which may arise, concerning their nature and reality. 1 

1 It is probable that no more was meant by those, who denied innate ideas, than 
that all ideas were copies of our impressions; though it must be confessed, that the 
terms, which they employed, were not chosen with such caution, nor so exactly defined, 
as to prevent all mistakes about their doctrine. For what is meant by innate? If 
innate be equivalent to natural, then all the perceptions and ideas of the mind must 
be allowed to be innate or natural, in whatever sense we take the latter word, 
whether in opposition to what is uncommon, artificial, or miraculous. If by innate 
be meant, contemporary to our birth, the dispute seems to be frivolous; nor is it 
worth while to enquire at what time thinking begins, whether before, at, or after 
our birth. Again, the word idea, seems to be commonly taken in a very loose 
sense, by LOCKE and others; as standing for any of our perceptions, our sensations 
and passions, as well as thoughts. Now in this sense, I should desire to know, what 
can be meant by asserting, that self-love, or resentment of injuries, or the passion 
between the sexes is not innate? 

But admitting these terms, impressions and ideas, in the sense above explained, 
and understanding by innate, what is original or copied from no precedent perception, 
then may we assert that all our impressions are innate, and our ideas not innate. 

To be ingenuous, I must own it to be my opinion, that LOCKE was betrayed into 
this question by the schoolmen, who, making use of undefined terms, draw out their 
disputes to a tedious length, without ever touching the point in question. A like 
ambiguity and circumlocution seem to run through that philosopher's reasonings on 
this as well as most other subjects. 



SECTION III 

OF THE ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS 

IT IS evident that there is a principle of connexion between the 
different thoughts or ideas of the mind, and that in their appear- 
ance to the memory or imagination, they introduce each other 
with a certain degree of method and regularity. In our more serious 
thinking or discourse this is so observable that any particular thought, 
which breaks in upon the regular tract or chain of ideas, is imme- 
diately remarked and rejected. And even in our wildest and most 
wandering reveries, nay in our very dreams, we shall find, if we re- 
flect, that the imagination ran not altogether at adventures, but that 
there was still a connexion upheld among the different ideas, which 
succeeded each other. Were the loosest and freest conversation to be 
transcribed, there would immediately be observed something which 
connected it in all its transitions. Or where this is wanting, the person 
who broke the thread of discourse might still inform you, that there 
had secretly revolved in his mind a succession of thought, which had 
gradually led him from the subject of conversation. Among different 
languages, even where we cannot suspect the least connexion or 
communication, it is found, that the words, expressive of ideas, the 
most compounded, do yet nearly correspond to each other: a certain 
proof that the simple ideas, comprehended in the compound ones, 
were bound together by some universal principle, which had an 
equal influence on all mankind. 

Though it be too obvious to escape observation, that different ideas 
are connected together; I do not find that any philosopher has at- 
tempted to enumerate or class all the principles of association; a sub- 
ject, however, that seems worthy of curiosity. To me, there appear 
to be only three principles of connexion among ideas, namely, Re- 
semblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause or Effect. 

That these principles serve to connect ideas will not, I believe, be 
much doubted. A picture naturally leads our thoughts to the 

304 



ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS 305 

original: 1 the mention of one apartment in a building naturally intro- 
duces an enquiry or discourse concerning the others: 2 and if we think 
of a wound, we can scarcely forbear reflecting on the pain which fol- 
lows it. 3 But that this enumeration is complete, and that there are 
no other principles of association except these, may be difficult to 
prove to the satisfaction of the reader, or even to a man's own satis- 
faction. All we can do, in such cases, is to run over several instances, 
and examine carefully the principle which binds the different 
thoughts to each other, never stopping till we render the principle 
as general as possible. 4 The more instances we examine, and the 
more care we employ, the more assurance shall we acquire, that the 
enumeration, which we form from the whole, is complete and entire. 

1 Resemblance. 2 Contiguity. 3 Cause and effect. 

4 For instance, Contrast or Contrariety is also a connexion among Ideas: but it 
may, perhaps, be considered as a mixture of Causation and Resemblance. Where two 
objects are contrary, the one destroys the other; that is, the cause of its annihilation, 
and the idea of the annihilation of an object, implies the idea of its former existence. 



SECTION IV 

SCEPTICAL DOUBTS CONCERNING THE OPERATIONS OF 
THE UNDERSTANDING 

PART! 

A., the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be 
divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Mat- 
ters of Fact. Of the first kind are the sciences of Geometry, 
Algebra, and Arithmetic; and in short, every affirmation which is 
either intuitively or demonstratively certain. That the square of the 
hypothenuse is equal to the square of the two sides, is a proposition 
which expresses a relation between these figures. That three times 
fve is equal to the half of thirty, expresses a relation between these 
numbers. Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere 
operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere exis- 
tent in the universe. Though there never were a circle or triangle 
in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would for ever retain 
their certainty and evidence. 

Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are 
not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their 
truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. The con- 
trary of every matter of fact is still possible; because it can never 
imply a contradiction, and is conceived by the mind with the same 
facility and distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality. That 
the sun will not rise to-morrow is no less intelligible a proposition, 
and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will 
rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its false- 
hood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, 
and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind. 

It may, therefore, be a subject worthy of curiosity, to enquire what 
is the nature of that evidence which assures us of any real existence 
and matter of fact, beyond the present testimony of our senses, or the 

306 



SCEPTICAL DOUBTS 307 

records of our memory. This part of philosophy, it is observable, has 
been little cultivated, either by the ancients or moderns; and there- 
fore our doubts and errors, in the prosecution of so important an 
enquiry, may be the more excusable; while we march through such 
difficult paths without any guide or direction. They may even prove 
useful, by exciting curiosity, and destroying that implicit faith and 
security, which is the bane of all reasoning and free enquiry. The 
discovery of defects in the common philosophy, if any such there be, 
will not, I presume, be a discouragement, but rather an incitement, 
as is usual, to attempt something more full and satisfactory than has 
yet been proposed to the public. 

All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the 
relation of Cause and Effect. By means of that relation alone we can 
go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. If you were to ask 
a man, why he believes any matter of fact, which is absent; for in- 
stance, that his friend is in the country, or in France; he would give 
you a reason; and this reason would be some other fact; as a letter 
received from him, or the knowledge of his former resolutions and 
promises. A man finding a watch or any other machine in a desert 
island, would conclude that there had once been men in that island. 
All our reasonings concerning fact are of the same nature. And here 
it is constantly supposed that there is a connexion between the present 
fact and that which is inferred from it. Were there nothing to bind 
them together, the inference would be entirely precarious. The 
hearing of an articulate voice and rational discourse in the dark as- 
sures us of the presence of some person : Why ? because these are the 
effects of the human make and fabric, and closely connected with 
it. If we anatomize all the other reasonings of this nature, we shall 
find that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect, and 
that this relation is either near or remote, direct or collateral. Heat 
and light are collateral effects of fire, and the one effect may justly be 
inferred from the other. 

If we would satisfy ourselves, therefore, concerning the nature of 
that evidence, which assures us of matters of fact, we must enquire 
how we arrive at the knowledge of cause and effect. 

I shall venture to affirm, as a general proposition, which admits of 
no exception, that the knowledge of this relation is not, in any in- 



308 DAVID HUME 

stance, attained by reasonings a priori; but arises entirely from ex- 
perience, when we find that any particular objects are constantly 
conjoined with each other. Let an object be presented to a man of 
ever so strong natural reason and abilities; if that object be entirely 
new to him, he will not be able, by the most accurate examination of 
its sensible qualities, to discover any of its causes or effects. Adam, 
though his rational faculties be supposed, at the very first, entirely 
perfect, could not have inferred from the fluidity and transparency 
of water that it would suffocate him, or from the light and warmth of 
fire that it would consume him. No object ever discovers, by the 
qualities which appear to the senses, either the causes which produced 
it, or the effects which will arise from it; nor can our reason, un- 
assisted by experience, ever draw any inference concerning real 
existence and matter of fact. 

This proposition, that causes and effects are discoverable, not by 
reason but by experience, will readily be admitted with regard to 
such objects, as we remember to have once been altogether unknown 
to us; since we must be conscious of the utter inability, which we 
then lay under, of foretelling what would arise from them. Present 
two smooth pieces of marble to a man who has no tincture of natural 
philosophy; he will never discover that they will adhere together in 
such a manner as to require great force to separate them in a direct 
line, while they make so small a resistance to a lateral pressure. Such 
events, as bear little analogy to the common course of nature, are 
also readily confessed to be known only by experience; nor does any 
man imagine that the explosion of gunpowder, or the attraction of a 
loadstone, could ever be discovered by arguments a priori. In like 
manner, when an effect is supposed to depend upon an intricate 
machinery or secret structure of parts, we make no difficulty in at- 
tributing all our knowledge of it to experience. Who will assert 
that he can give the ultimate reason, why milk or bread is proper 
nourishment for a man, not for a lion or a tiger? 

But the same truth may not appear, at first sight, to have the same 
evidence with regard to events, which have become familiar to us 
from our first appearance in the world, which bear a close analogy 
to the whole course of nature, and which are supposed to depend 
on the simple qualities of objects, without any secret structure of 



SCEPTICAL DOUBTS 309 

parts. We are apt to imagine that we could discover these effects 
by the mere operation of our reason, without experience. We fancy, 
that were we brought on a sudden into this world, we could at first 
have inferred that one Billiard-ball would communicate motion to 
another upon impulse; and that we needed not to have waited for the 
event, in order to pronounce with certainty concerning it. Such is 
the influence of custom, that, where it is strongest, it not only covers 
our natural ignorance, but even conceals itself, and seems not to take 
place, merely because it is found in the highest degree. 

But to convince us that all the laws of nature, and all the operations 
of bodies without exception, are known only by experience, the fol- 
lowing reflections may, perhaps, suffice. Were any object presented 
to us, and were we required to pronounce concerning the effect, 
which will result from it, without consulting past observation; after 
what manner, I beseech you, must the mind proceed in this opera- 
tion ? It must invent or imagine some event, which it ascribes to the 
object as its effect; and it is plain that this invention must be entirely 
arbitrary. The mind can never possibly find the effect in the sup- 
posed cause, by the most accurate scrutiny and examination. For the 
effect is totally different from the cause, and consequently can never 
be discovered in it. Motion in the second Billiard-ball is a quite 
distinct event from motion in the first; nor is there anything in the 
one to suggest the smallest hint of the other. A stone or piece of 
metal raised into the air, and left without any support, immediately 
falls: but to consider the matter a priori, is there anything we 
discover in this situation which can beget the idea of a down- 
ward, rather than an upward, or any other motion, in the stone or 
metal? 

And as the first imagination or invention of a particular effect, in 
all natural operations, is arbitrary, where we consult not experience; 
so must we also esteem the supposed tie or connexion between the 
cause and effect, which binds them together, and renders it impossi- 
ble that any other effect could result from the operation of that cause. 
When I see, for instance, a Billiard-ball moving in a straight line 
towards another; even suppose motion in the second ball should by 
accident be suggested to me, as the result of their contact or impulse; 
may I not conceive, that a hundred different events might as well 



3IO DAVID HUME 

follow from that cause ? May not both these balls remain at absolute 
rest ? May not the first ball return in a straight line, or leap of! from 
the second in any line or direction? All these suppositions are con- 
sistent and conceivable. Why then should we give the preference 
to one, which is no more consistent or conceivable than the rest? 
All our reasonings a priori will never be able to show us any founda- 
tion for this preference. 

In a word, then, every effect is a distinct event from its cause. 
It could not, therefore, be discovered in the cause, and the first in- 
vention or conception of it, a priori, must be entirely arbitrary. And 
even after it is suggested, the conjunction of it with the cause must 
appear equally arbitrary, since there are always many other effects, 
which, to reason, must seem fully as consistent and natural. In vain, 
therefore, should we pretend to determine any single event, or infer 
any cause or effect, without the assistance of observation and expe- 
rience. 

Hence we may discover the reason why no philosopher, who is 
rational and modest, has ever pretended to assign the ultimate cause 
of any natural operation, or to show distinctly the action of that 
power, which produces any single effect in the universe. It is con- 
fessed, that the utmost effort of human reason is to reduce the prin- 
ciples, productive of natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and 
to resolve the many particular effects into a few general causes, by 
means of reasonings from analogy, experience, and observation. But 
as to the causes of these general causes, we should in vain attempt 
their discovery; nor shall we ever be able to satisfy ourselves, by any 
particular explication of them. These ultimate springs and prin- 
ciples are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry. Elas- 
ticity, gravity, cohesion of parts, communication of motion by im- 
pulse; these are probably the ultimate causes and principles which we 
shall ever discover in nature; and we may esteem ourselves suffi- 
ciently happy, if, by accurate enquiry and reasoning, we can trace 
up the particular phenomena to, or near to, these general principles. 
The most perfect philosophy of the natural kind only staves off our 
ignorance a little longer: as perhaps the most perfect philosophy of 
the moral or metaphysical kind serves only to discover larger por- 
tions of it. Thus the observation of human blindness and weakness 



SCEPTICAL DOUBTS 311 

is the result o all philosophy, and meets us at every turn, in spite 
of our endeavours to elude or avoid it. 

Nor is geometry, when taken into the assistance of natural phi- 
losophy, ever able to remedy this defect, or lead us into the knowledge 
of ultimate causes, by all that accuracy of reasoning for which it is 
so justly celebrated. Every part of mixed mathematics proceeds upon 
the supposition that certain laws are established by nature in her oper- 
ations; and abstract reasonings are employed, either to assist expe- 
rience in the discovery of these laws, or to determine their influence 
in particular instances, where it depends upon any precise degree of 
distance and quantity. Thus, it is a law of motion, discovered by ex- 
perience, that the moment or force of any body in motion is in the 
compound ratio or proportion of its solid contents and its velocity; 
and consequently, that a small force may remove the greatest obstacle 
or raise the greatest weight, if, by any contrivance or machinery, we 
can increase the velocity of that force, so as to make it an overmatch 
for its antagonist. Geometry assists us in the application of this law, 
by giving us the just dimensions of all the parts and figures which 
can enter into any species of machine; but still the discovery of the 
law itself is owing merely to experience, and all the abstract reason- 
ings in the world could never lead us one step towards the knowledge 
of it. When we reason a priori, and consider merely any object or 
cause, as it appears to the mind, independent of all observation, it 
never could suggest to us the notion of any distinct object, such as 
its effect; much less, show us the inseparable and inviolable con- 
nexion between them. A man must be very sagacious who could 
discover by reasoning that crystal is the effect of heat, and ice of cold, 
without being previously acquainted with the operation of these 
qualities. 

PART II 

BUT we have not yet attained any tolerable satisfaction with regard 
to the question first proposed. Each solution still gives rise to a new 
question as difficult as the foregoing, and leads us on to farther en- 
quiries. When it is asked, What is the nature of all our reasonings 
concerning matter of fact? the proper answer seems to be, that they 
are founded on the relation of cause and effect. When again it is 



312 DAVID HUME 

asked, What is the foundation of all our reasonings and conclusions 
concerning that relation? it may be replied in one word, Experience. 
But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the 
foundation of all conclusions from experience? this implies a new 
question, which may be of more difficult solution and explication. 
Philosophers, that give themselves airs of superior wisdom and suffi- 
ciency, have a hard task when they encounter persons of inquisitive 
dispositions, who push them from every corner to which they retreat, 
and who are sure at last to bring them to some dangerous dilemma. 
The best expedient to prevent this confusion, is to be modest in our 
pretensions; and even to discover the difficulty ourselves before it is 
objected to us. By this means, we may make a kind of merit of our 
very ignorance. 

I shall content myself, in this section, with an easy task, and shall 
pretend only to give a negative answer to the question here pro- 
posed. I say then, that, even after we have experience of the opera- 
tions of cause and effect, our conclusions from that experience are 
not founded on reasoning, or any process of the understanding. This 
answer we must endeavour both to explain and to defend. 

It must certainly be allowed, that nature has kept us at a great 
distance from all her secrets, and has afforded us only the knowl- 
edge of a few superficial qualities of objects; while she conceals from 
us those powers and principles on which the influence of those ob- 
jects entirely depends. Our senses inform us of the colour, weight, 
and consistence of bread; but neither sense nor reason can ever in- 
form us of those qualities which fit it for the nourishment and sup- 
port of a human body. Sight or feeling conveys an idea of the actual 
motion of bodies; but as to that wonderful force or power, which 
would carry on a moving body for ever in a continued change of 
place, and which bodies never lose but by communicating it to 
others; of this we cannot form the most distant conception. But not- 
withstanding this ignorance of natural powers 1 and principles, we 
always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that they have 
like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those which we 
have experienced, will follow from them. If a body of like colour and 

1 The word, Power, is here used in a loose and popular sense. The more accurate 
explication of it would give additional evidence to this argument. See Sect. 7. 



SCEPTICAL DOUBTS 313 

consistence with that bread, which we have formerly eat, be pre- 
sented to us, we make no scruple of repeating the experiment, and 
foresee, with certainty, like nourishment and support. Now this is a 
process of the mind or thought, of which I would willingly know 
the foundation. It is allowed on all hands that there is no known 
connexion between the sensible qualities and the secret powers; and 
consequently, that the mind is not led to form such a conclusion 
concerning their constant and regular conjunction, by anything 
which it knows of their nature. As to past Experience, it can be al- 
lowed to give direct and certain information of those precise objects 
only, and that precise period of time, which fell under its cognizance : 
but why this experience should be extended to future times, and to 
other objects, which for aught we know, may be only in appearance 
similar; this is the main question on which I would insist. The bread, 
which I formerly eat, nourished me; that is, a body of such sensible 
qualities was, at that time, endued with such secret powers: but does 
it follow, that other bread must also nourish me at another time, 
and that like sensible qualities must always be attended with like 
secret powers? The consequence seems nowise necessary. At least, 
it must be acknowledged that there is here a consequence drawn by 
the mind; that there is a certain step taken; a process of thought, and 
an inference, which wants to be explained. These two propositions 
are far from being the same. / have found that such an object has 
always been attended with such an effect, and / foresee, that other 
objects, which are, in appearance, similar, will be attended with simi- 
lar effects. I shall allow, if you please, that the one proposition may 
justly be inferred from the other: I know, in fact, that it always is in- 
ferred. But if you insist that the inference is made by a chain of rea- 
soning, I desire you to produce that reasoning. The connexion be- 
tween these propositions is not intuitive. There is required a me- 
dium, which may enable the mind to draw such an inference, if in- 
deed it be drawn by reasoning and argument. What that medium is, 
I must confess, passes my comprehension; and it is incumbent on 
those to produce it, who assert that it really exists, and is the origin of 
all our conclusions concerning matter of fact. 

This negative argument must certainly, in process of time, be- 
come altogether convincing, if many penetrating and able philoso- 



314 DAVID HUME 

phers shall turn their enquiries this way and no one be ever able 
to discover any connecting proposition or intermediate step, which 
supports the understanding in this conclusion. But as the question 
is yet new, every reader may not trust so far to his own penetration, 
as to conclude, because an argument escapes his enquiry, that there- 
fore it does not really exist. For this reason it may be requisite to 
venture upon a more difficult task; and enumerating all the branches 
of human knowledge, endeavour to show that none of them can 
afford such an argument. 

All reasonings may be divided into two kinds, namely, demonstra- 
tive reasoning, or that concerning relations of ideas, and moral rea- 
soning, or that concerning matter of fact and existence. That there 
are no demonstrative arguments in the case seems evident; since it 
implies no contradiction that the course of nature may change, and 
that an object, seemingly like those which we have experienced, may 
be attended with different or contrary effects. May I not clearly and 
distinctly conceive that a body, falling from the clouds, and which, 
in all other respects, resembles snow, has yet the taste of salt or feeling 
of fire ? Is there any more intelligible proposition than to affirm, that 
all the trees will flourish in December and January, and decay in May 
and June? Now whatever is intelligible, and can be distinctly con- 
ceived, implies no contradiction, and can never be proved false by 
any demonstrative argument or abstract reasoning a priori. 

If we be, therefore, engaged by arguments to put trust in past 
experience, and make it the standard of our future judgment, these 
arguments must be probable only, or such as regard matter of fact 
and real existence according to the division above mentioned. But 
that there is no argument of this kind, must appear, if our explica- 
tion of that species of reasoning be admitted as solid and satisfactory. 
We have said that all arguments concerning existence are founded 
on the relation of cause and effect; that our knowledge of that rela- 
tion is derived entirely from experience; and that all our experi- 
mental conclusions proceed upon the supposition that the future will 
be conformable to the past. To endeavour, therefore, the proof of 
this last supposition by probable arguments, or arguments regarding 
existence, must be evidently going in a circle, and taking that for 
granted, which is the very point in question. 



SCEPTICAL DOUBTS 315 

In reality, all arguments from experience are founded on the simi- 
larity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we 
are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found 
to follow from such objects. And though none but a fool or mad- 
man will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience, or 
to reject that great guide of human life, it may surely be allowed 
a philosopher to have so much curiosity at least as to examine the 
principle of human nature, which gives this mighty authority to ex- 
perience, and makes us draw advantage from that similarity which 
nature has placed among different objects. From causes which ap- 
pear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our ex- 
perimental conclusions. Now it seems evident that, if this conclusion 
were formed by reason, it would be as perfect at first, and upon one 
instance, as after ever so long a course of experience. But the case 
is far otherwise. Nothing so like as eggs; yet no one, on account of 
this appearing similarity, expects the same taste and relish in all of 
them. It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any 
kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a par- 
ticular event. Now where is that process of reasoning which, from 
one instance, draws a conclusion, so different from that which it 
infers from a hundred instances that are nowise different from that 
single one? This question I propose as much for the sake of in- 
formation, as with an intention of raising difficulties. I cannot find, 
I cannot imagine any such reasoning. But I keep my mind still open 
to instruction, if any one will vouchsafe to bestow it on me. 

Should it be said that, from a number of uniform experiments, 
we infer a connexion between the sensible qualities and the secret 
powers; this, I must confess, seems the same difficulty, couched in dif- 
ferent terms. The question still recurs, on what process of argument 
this inference is founded? Where is the medium, the interposing 
ideas, which join propositions so very wide of each other? It is con- 
fessed that the colour, consistence, and other sensible qualities of 
bread appear not, of themselves, to have any connexion with the 
secret powers of nourishment and support. For otherwise we could 
infer these secret powers from the first appearance of these sensible 
qualities, without the aid of experience; contrary to the sentiment of 
all philosophers, and contrary to plain matter of fact. Here, then, is 



316 DAVID HUME 

our natural state of ignorance with regard to the powers and in- 
fluence of all objects. How is this remedied by experience? It only 
shows us a number of uniform effects, resulting from certain objects, 
and teaches us that those particular objects, at that particular time, 
were endowed with such powers and forces. When a new object, 
endowed with similar sensible qualities, is produced, we expect simi- 
lar powers and forces, and look for a like effect. From a body of 
like colour and consistence with bread we expect like nourishment 
and support. But this surely is a step or progress of the mind, which 
wants to be explained. When a man says, / have found, in all past 
instances, such sensible qualities conjoined with such secret powers: 
And when he says, Similar sensible qualities will always be con- 
joined with similar secret powers, he is not guilty of a tautology, nor 
are these propositions in any respect the same. You say that the one 
proposition is an inference from the other. But you must confess 
that the inference is not intuitive; neither is it demonstrative: Of 
what nature is it, then? To say it is experimental, is begging the 
question. For all inferences from experience suppose, as their founda- 
tion, that the future will resemble the past, and that similar powers 
will be conjoined with similar sensible qualities. If there be any 
suspicion that the course of nature may change, and that the past may 
be no rule for the future, all experience becomes useless, and can 
give rise to no inference or conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, 
that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of 
the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the 
supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed 
hitherto ever so regular; that alone, without some new argument 
or inference, proves not that, for the future, it will continue so. In 
vain do you pretend to have learned the nature of bodies from your 
past experience. Their secret nature, and consequently all their ef- 
fects and influence, may change, without any change in their sensible 
qualities. This happens sometimes, and with regard to some objects: 
Why may it not happen always, and with regard to all objects? 
What logic, what process or argument secures you against this sup- 
position ? My practice, you say, refutes my doubts. But you mistake 
the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the 
point; but as a philosopher, who has some share of curiosity, I will 



SCEPTICAL DOUBTS 317 

not say scepticism, I want to learn the foundation of this inference. 
No reading, no enquiry has yet been able to remove my difficulty, or 
give me satisfaction in a matter of such importance. Can I do better 
than propose the difficulty to the public, even though, perhaps, I 
have small hopes of obtaining a solution? We shall at least, by this 
means, be sensible of our ignorance, if we do not augment our 
knowledge. 

I must confess that a man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance 
who concludes, because an argument has escaped his own investiga- 
tion, that therefore it does not really exist. I must also confess that, 
though all the learned, for several ages, should have employed them- 
selves in fruitless search upon any subject, it may still, perhaps, be 
rash to conclude positively that the subject must, therefore, pass all 
human comprehension. Even though we examine all the sources o 
our knowledge, and conclude them unfit for such a subject, there 
may still remain a suspicion, that the enumeration is not complete, 
or the examination not accurate. But with regard to the present 
subject, there are some considerations which seem to remove all this 
accusation of arrogance or suspicion of mistake. 

It is certain that the most ignorant and stupid peasants nay in- 
fants, nay even brute beasts improve by experience, and learn the 
qualities of natural objects, by observing the effects which result from 
them. When a child has felt the sensation of pain from touching 
the flame of a candle, he will be careful not to put his hand near any 
candle; but will expect a similar effect from a cause which is similar 
in its sensible qualities and appearance. If you assert, therefore, that 
the understanding of the child is led into this conclusion by any 
process of argument or ratiocination, I may justly require you to pro- 
duce that argument; nor have you any pretence to refuse so equitable 
a demand. You cannot say that the argument is abstruse, and may 
possibly escape your enquiry; since you confess that it is obvious to 
the capacity of a mere infant. If you hesitate, therefore, a moment, 
or if, after reflection, you produce any intricate or profound argu- 
ment, you, in a manner, give up the question, and confess that it is 
not reasoning which engages us to suppose the past resembling the 
future, and to expect similar effects from causes which are, to ap- 
pearance, similar. This is the proposition which I intended to enforce 



318 DAVID HUME 

in the present section. If I be right, I pretend not to have made any 
mighty discovery. And if I be wrong, I must acknowledge myself 
to be indeed a very backward scholar; since I cannot now discover 
an argument which, it seems, was perfectly familiar to me long 
before I was out of my cradle. 



SECTION V 
SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF THESE DOUBTS 

PART! 

THE passion for philosophy, like that for religion, seems 
liable to this inconvenience, that, though it aims at the cor- 
rection of our manners, and extirpation of our vices, it may 
only serve, by imprudent management, to foster a predominant in- 
clination, and push the mind, with more determined resolution, to- 
wards that side which already draws too much, by the bias and pro- 
pensity of the natural temper. It is certain that, while we aspire to 
the magnanimous firmness of the philosophic sage, and endeavour 
to confine our pleasures altogether within our own minds, we may, 
at last, render our philosophy like that of Epictetus, and other Stoics, 
only a more refined system of selfishness, and reason ourselves out 
of all virtue as well as social enjoyment. While we study with atten- 
tion the vanity of human life, and turn all our thoughts towards 
the empty and transitory nature of riches and honours, we are, per- 
haps, all the while flattering our natural indolence, which, hating the 
bustle of the world, and drudgery of business, seeks a pretence of rea- 
son to give itself a full and uncontrolled indulgence. There is, how- 
ever, one species of philosophy which seems little liable to this in- 
convenience, and that because it strikes in with no disorderly passion 
of the human mind, nor can mingle itself with any natural affection 
or propensity; and that is the Academic or Sceptical philosophy. The 
academics always talk of doubt and suspense of judgment, of danger 
in hasty determinations, of confining to very narrow bounds the en- 
quiries of the understanding, and of renouncing all speculations 
which lie not within the limits of common life and practice. Noth- 
ing, therefore, can be more contrary than such a philosophy to 
the supine indolence of the mind, its rash arrogance, its lofty pre- 
tensions, and its superstitious credulity. Every passion is mortified 

319 



32O DAVID HUME 

by it, except the love of truth; and that passion never is, nor can be, 
carried to too high a degree. It is surprising, therefore, that this 
philosophy, which, in almost every instance, must be harmless and 
innocent, should be the subject of so much groundless reproach 
and obloquy. But, perhaps, the very circumstance which renders it 
so innocent is what chiefly exposes it to the public hatred and resent- 
ment. By flattering no irregular passion, it gains few partizans: 
By opposing so many vices and follies, it raises to itself abundance of 
enemies, who stigmatize it as libertine, profane, and irreligious. 

Nor need we fear that this philosophy, while it endeavours to 
limit our enquiries to common life, should ever undermine the 
reasonings of common life, and carry its doubts so far as to destroy 
all action, as well as speculation. Nature will always maintain her 
rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatso- 
ever. Though we should conclude, for instance, as in the foregoing 
section, that, in all reasonings from experience, there is a step taken 
by the mind which is not supported by any argument or process 
of the understanding; there is no danger that these reasonings, on 
which almost all knowledge depends, will ever be affected by such a 
discovery. If the mind be not engaged by argument to make this 
step, it must be induced by some other principle of equal weight 
and authority; and that principle will preserve its influence as long as 
human nature remains the same. What that principle is may well 
be worth the pains of enquiry. 

Suppose a person, though endowed with the strongest faculties of 
reason and reflection, to be brought on a sudden into this world; 
he would, indeed, immediately observe a continual succession of ob- 
jects, and one event following another; but he would not be able to 
discover anything farther. He would not, at first, by any reasoning, 
be able to reach the idea of cause and effect; since the particular 
powers, by which all natural operations are performed, never appear 
to the senses; nor is it reasonable to conclude, merely because one 
event, in one instance, precedes another, that therefore the one is the 
cause, the other the effect. Their conjunction may be arbitrary and 
casual. There may be no reason to infer the existence of one from 
the appearance of the other. And in a word, such a person, without 
more experience, could never employ his conjecture or reasoning 



SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF DOUBTS 321 

concerning any matter of fact, or be assured of anything beyond 
what was immediately present to his memory and senses. 

Suppose, again, that he has acquired more experience, and has 
lived so long in the world as to have observed familiar objects or 
events to be constantly conjoined together; what is the consequence 
of this experience? He immediately infers the existence of one ob- 
ject from the appearance of the other. Yet he has not, by all his ex- 
perience, acquired any idea or knowledge of the secret power by 
which the one object produces the other; nor is it by any process of 
reasoning, he is engaged to draw this inference. But still he finds 
himself determined to draw it: and though he should be convinced 
that his understanding has no part in the operation, he would 
nevertheless continue in the same course of thinking. There is 
some other principle which determines him to form such a con- 
clusion. 

This principle is Custom or Habit. For wherever the repetition of 
any particular act or operation produces a propensity to renew the 
same act or operation, without being impelled by any reasoning or 
process of the understanding, we always say, that this propensity is 
the effect of Custom. By employing that word, we pretend not to 
have given the ultimate reason of such a propensity. We only point 
out a principle of human nature, which is universally acknowledged, 
and which is well known by its effects. Perhaps we can push our 
enquiries no farther, or pretend to give the cause of this cause; but 
must rest contented with it as the ultimate principle, which we can 
assign, of all our conclusions from experience. It is sufficient satis- 
faction, that we can go so far, without repining at the narrowness of 
our faculties because they will carry us no farther. And it is certain 
we here advance a very intelligible proposition at least, if not a true 
one, when we assert that, after the constant conjunction of two 
objects heat and flame, for instance, weight and solidity we are 
determined by custom alone to expect the one from the appearance 
of the other. This hypothesis seems even the only one which explains 
the difficulty, why we draw, from a thousand instances, an inference 
which we are not able to draw from one instance, that is, in no re- 
spect, different from them. Reason is incapable of any such variation. 
The conclusions which it draws from considering one circle are the 



322 DAVID HUME 

same which it would form upon surveying all the circles in the 
universe. But no man, having seen only one body move after being 
impelled by another, could infer that every other body will move 
after a like impulse. All inferences from experience, therefore, are 
effects of custom,, not of reasoning 1 . 

Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that prin- 
ciple alone which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us 
expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have 
appeared in the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be 
entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately 
present to the memory and senses. We should never know how to 
adjust means to ends, or to employ our natural powers in the pro- 
duction of any effect. There would be an end at once of all action, 
as well as of the chief part of speculation. 

But here it may be proper to remark, that though our conclusions 
from experience carry us beyond our memory and senses, and assure 
us of matters of fact which happened in the most distant places and 

1 Nothing is more useful than for writers, even, on moral, political, or physical 
subjects, to distinguish between reason and experience, and to suppose, that these 
species of argumentation are entirely different from each other. The former are 
taken for the mere result of our intellectual faculties, which, by considering a priori 
the nature of things, and examining the effects, that must follow from their operation, 
establish particular principles of science and philosophy. The latter are supposed to 
be derived entirely from sense and observation, by which we learn what has actually 
resulted from the operation of particular objects, and are thence able to infer, what 
will, for the future, result from them. Thus, for instance, the limitations and 
restraints of civil government, and a legal constitution, may be defended, either from 
reason, which reflecting on the great frailty and corruption of human nature, teaches, 
that no man can safely be trusted with unlimited authority; or from experience and 
history, which inform us of the enormous abuses, that ambition, in every age and 
country, has been found to make of so imprudent a confidence. 

The same distinction between reason and experience is maintained in all our delib- 
erations concerning the conduct of life; while the experienced statesman, general, 
physician, or merchant is trusted and followed; and the unpractised novice, with 
whatever natural talents endowed, neglected and despised. Though it be allowed, 
that reason may form very plausible conjectures with regard to the consequences of 
such a particular conduct in such particular circumstances; it is still supposed imperfect, 
without the assistance of experience, which is alone able to give stability and certainty 
to the maxims, derived from study and reflection. 

But notwithstanding that this distinction be thus universally received, both in the 
active and speculative scenes of life, I shall not scruple to pronounce, that it is, at 
bottom, erroneous, at least, superficial. 

If we examine those arguments, which, in any of the sciences above mentioned, 
are supposed to be the mere effects of reasoning and reflection, they will be found 
to terminate, at last, in some general principle or conclusion, for which we can 
assign no reason but observation and experience. The only difference between them 



SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF DOUBTS 323 

most remote ages, yet some fact must always be present to the 
senses or memory, from which we may first proceed in drawing these 
conclusions. A man, who should find in a desert country the remains 
of pompous buildings, would conclude that the country had, in an- 
cient times, been cultivated by civilized inhabitants; but did nothing 
of this nature occur to him, he could never form such an inference. 
We learn the events of former ages from history; but then we must 
peruse the volumes in which this instruction is contained, and thence 
carry up our inferences from one testimony to another, till we arrive 
at the eyewitnesses and spectators of these distant events. In a word, 
if we proceed not upon some fact, present to the memory or senses, 
our reasonings would be merely hypothetical; and however the par- 
ticular links might be connected with each other, the whole chain 
of inferences would have nothing to support it, nor could we ever, 
by its means, arrive at the knowledge of any real existence. If I ask 
why you believe any particular matter of fact, which you relate, you 
must tell me some reason; and this reason will be some other fact, 
connected with it. But as you cannot proceed after this manner, 
in infinitum, you must at last terminate in some fact, which is present 

and those maxims, which are vulgarly esteemed the result of pure experience, is, 
that the former cannot be established without some process of thought, and some 
reflection on what we have observed, in order to distinguish its circumstances, and 
trace its consequences: Whereas in the latter, the experienced event is exactly and 
fully familiar to that which we infer as the result of any particular situation. The 
history of a TIBERIUS or a NERO makes us dread a like tyranny, were our monarchs 
freed from the restraints of laws and senates: But the observation of any fraud or 
cruelty in private life is sufficient, with the aid of a little thought, to give us the 
same apprehension; while it serves as an instance of the general corruption of 
human nature, and shows us the danger which we must incur by reposing an entire 
confidence in mankind. In both cases, it is experience which is ultimately the 
foundation of our inference and conclusion. 

There is no man so young and unexperienced, as not to have formed, from obser- 
vation, many general and just maxims concerning human affairs and the conduct 
of life; but it must be confessed, that, when a man comes to put these in practice, 
he will be extremely liable to error, till time and farther experience both enlarge 
these maxims, and teach him their proper use and application. In every situation or 
incident, there are many particular and seemingly minute circumstances, which the 
man of greatest talent is, at first, apt to overlook, though on them the justness of 
his conclusions, and consequently the prudence of his conduct, entirely depend. 
Not to mention, that, to a young beginner, the general observations and maxims 
occur not always on the proper occasions, nor can be immediately applied with due 
calmness and distinction. The truth is, an unexperienced reasoner could be no 
reasoner at all, were he absolutely unexperienced; and when we assign that character 
to any one, we mean it only in a comparative sense, and suppose him possessed of 
experience, in a smaller and more imperfect degree. 



324 DAVID HUME 

to your memory or senses; or must allow that your belief is entirely 
without foundation. 

What, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter? A simple 
one; though, it must be confessed, pretty remote from the common 
theories of philosophy. All belief of matter of fact or real existence 
is derived merely from some object, present to the memory or senses, 
and a customary conjunction between that and some other object. 
Or in other words; having found, in many instances, that any two 
kinds of objects flame and heat, snow and cold have always been 
conjoined together; if flame or snow be presented anew to the senses, 
the mind is carried by custom to expect heat or cold, and to believe 
that such a quality does exist, and will discover itself upon a nearer 
approach. This belief is the necessary result of placing the mind in 
such circumstances. It is an operation of the soul, when we are so 
situated, as unavoidable as to feel the passion of love, when we receive 
benefits; or hatred, when we meet with injuries. All these operations 
are a species of natural instincts, which no reasoning or process of 
the thought and understanding is able either to produce or to pre- 
vent. 

At this point, it would be very allowable for us to stop our philo- 
sophical researches. In most questions we can never make a single 
step farther; and in all questions we must terminate here at last, 
after our most restless and curious enquiries. But still our curiosity 
will be pardonable, perhaps commendable, if it carry us on to still 
farther researches, and make us examine more accurately the nature 
of this belief, and of the customary conjunction, whence it is derived. 
By this means we may meet with some explications and analogies 
that will give satisfaction; at least to such as love the abstract sciences, 
and can be entertained with speculations, which, however accurate, 
may still retain a degree of doubt and uncertainty. As to readers of 
a different taste; the remaining part of this section is not calculated 
for them, and the following enquiries may well be understood, 
though it be neglected. 

PART II 

NOTHING is more free than the imagination of man; and though 
it cannot exceed that original stock of ideas furnished by the internal 



SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF DOUBTS 325 

and external senses, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding, 
separating, and dividing these ideas, in all the varieties of fiction and 
vision. It can feign a train of events, with all the appearance of 
reality, ascribe to them a particular time and place, conceive them as 
existent, and paint them out to itself with every circumstance, that 
belongs to any historical fact, which it believes with the greatest cer- 
tainty. Wherein, therefore, consists the difference between such a fic- 
tion and belief? It lies not merely in any peculiar idea, which is 
annexed to such a conception as commands our assent, and which is 
wanting to every known fiction. For as the mind has authority over 
all its ideas, it could voluntarily annex this particular idea to any fic- 
tion, and consequently be able to believe whatever it pleases; con- 
trary to what we find by daily experience. We can, in our concep- 
tion, join the head of a man to the body of a horse; but it is not in our 
power to believe that such an animal has ever really existed. 

It follows, therefore, that the difference between fiction and belief 
lies in some sentiment or feeling, which is annexed to the latter, not 
to the former, and which depends not on the will, nor can be com- 
manded at pleasure. It must be excited by nature, like all other senti- 
ments; and must arise from the particular situation, in which the 
mind is placed at any particular juncture. Whenever any object is 
presented to the memory or senses, it immediately, by the force of 
custom, carries the imagination to conceive that object, which is 
usually conjoined to it; and this conception is attended with a feel- 
ing or sentiment, different from the loose reveries of the fancy. In 
this consists the whole nature of belief. For as there is no matter of 
fact which we believe so firmly that we cannot conceive the con- 
trary, there would be no difference between the conception assented 
to and that which is rejected, were it not for some sentiment which 
distinguishes the one from the other. If I see a billiard-ball moving 
toward another, on a smooth table, I can easily conceive it to stop 
upon contact. This conception implies no contradiction; but still it 
feels very differently from that conception by which I represent to 
myself the impulse and the communication of motion from one ball 
to another. 

Were we to attempt a definition of this sentiment, we should, 
perhaps, find it a very difficult, if not an impossible task; in the same 



326 DAVID HUME 

manner as if we should endeavour to define the feeling of cold or 
passion of anger, to a creature who never had any experience of these 
sentiments. Belief is the true and proper name of this feeling; and 
no one is ever at a loss to know the meaning of that term; because 
every man is every moment conscious of the sentiment represented 
by it. It may not, however, be improper to attempt a description of 
this sentiment; in hopes we may, by that means, arrive at some analo- 
gies, which may afford a more perfect explication of it. I say, then, 
that belief is nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady 
conception of an object, than what the imagination alone is ever able 
to attain. This variety of terms, which may seem so unphilosophical, 
is intended only to express that act of the mind, which renders real- 
ities, or what is taken for such, more present to us than fictions, causes 
them to weigh more in the thought, and gives them a superior in- 
fluence on the passions and imagination. Provided we agree about 
the thing, it is needless to dispute about the terms. The imagination 
has the command over all its ideas, and can join and mix and vary 
them, in all the ways possible. It may conceive fictitious objects with 
all the circumstances of place and time. It may set them, in a man- 
ner, before our eyes, in their true colours, just as they might have 
existed. But as it is impossible that this faculty of imagination can 
ever, of itself, reach belief, it is evident that belief consists not in the 
peculiar nature or order of ideas, but in the manner of their concep- 
tion, and in their feeling to the mind. I confess, that it is impossible 
perfectly to explain this feeling or manner of conception. We may 
make use of words which express something near it. But its true 
and proper name, as we observed before, is belief; which is a term 
that every one sufficiently understands in common life. And in 
philosophy, we can go no farther than assert, that belief is something 
felt by the mind, which distinguishes the ideas of the judgement from 
the fictions of the imagination. It gives them more weight and in- 
fluence; makes them appear of greater importance; enforces them 
in the mind; and renders them the governing principle of our actions. 
I hear at present, for instance, a person's voice, with whom I am 
acquainted; and the sound comes as from the next room. This im- 
pression of my senses immediately conveys my thought to the person, 
together with all the surrounding objects. I paint them out to myself 



SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF DOUBTS 327 

as existing at present, with the same qualities and relations, of which 
I formerly knew them possessed. These ideas take faster hold of 
my mind than ideas of an enchanted castle. They are very different 
to the feeling, and have a much greater influence of every kind, 
either to give pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow. 

Let us, then, take in the whole compass of this doctrine, and 
allow, that the sentiment of belief is nothing but a conception more 
intense and steady than what attends the mere fictions of the imagin- 
ation, and that this manner of conception arises from a customary 
conjunction of the object with something present to the memory or 
senses : I believe that it will not be difficult, upon these suppositions, 
to find other operations of the mind analogous to it, and to trace up 
these phenomena to principles still more general. 

We have already observed that nature has established connexions 
among particular ideas, and that no sooner one idea occurs to our 
thoughts than it introduces its correlative, and carries our attention 
towards it, by a gentle and insensible movement. These principles 
of connexion or association we have reduced to three, namely, Re- 
semblance, Contiguity and Causation; which are the only bonds that 
unite our thoughts together, and beget that regular train of reflection 
or discourse, which, in a greater or less degree, takes place among all 
mankind. Now here arises a question, on which the solution of the 
present difficulty will depend. Does it happen, in all these relations, 
that, when one of the objects is presented to the senses or memory, 
the mind is not only carried to the conception of the correlative, but 
reaches a steadier and stronger conception of it than what otherwise 
it would have been able to attain? This seems to be the case with 
that belief which arises from the relation of cause and effect. And if 
the case be the same with the other relations or principles of associa- 
tions, this may be established as a general law, which takes place in 
all the operations of the mind. 

We may, therefore, observe, as the first experiment to our present 
purpose, that, upon the appearance of the picture of an absent friend, 
our idea of him is evidently enlivened by the resemblance, and that 
every passion, which that idea occasions, whether of joy or sorrow, 
acquires new force and vigour. In producing this effect, there concur 
both a relation and a present impression. Where the picture bears 



328 DAVID HUME 

him no resemblance, at least was not intended for him, it never so 
much as conveys our thought to him : and where it is absent, as well 
as the person, though the mind may pass from the thought of the 
one to that of the other, it feels its idea to be rather weakened than 
enlivened by that transition. We take a pleasure in viewing the pic- 
ture of a friend, when it is set before us; but when it is removed, 
rather choose to consider him directly than by reflection in an image, 
which is equally distant and obscure. 

The ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion may be consid- 
ered as instances of the same nature. The devotees of that supersti- 
tion usually plead in excuse for the mummeries, with which they 
are upbraided, that they feel the good effect of those external mo- 
tions, and postures, and actions, in enlivening their devotion and 
quickening their fervour, which otherwise would decay, if directed 
entirely to distant and immaterial objects. We shadow out the ob- 
jects of our faith, say they, in sensible types and images, and render 
them more present to us by the immediate presence of these types, 
than it is possible for us to do merely by an intellectual view and 
contemplation. Sensible objects have always a greater influence on 
the fancy than any other; and this influence they readily convey to 
those ideas to which they are related, and which they resemble. I 
shall only infer from these practices, and this reasoning, that the 
effect of resemblance in enlivening the ideas is very common; and as 
in every case a resemblance and a present impression must concur, 
we are abundantly supplied with experiments to prove the reality of 
the foregoing principle. 

We may add force to these experiments by others of a different 
kind, in considering the effects of contiguity as well as of resem- 
blance. It is certain that distance diminishes the force of every idea, 
and that, upon our approach to any object; though it does not dis- 
cover itself to our senses; it operates upon the mind with an in- 
fluence, which imitates an immediate impression. The thinking on 
any object readily transports the mind to what is contiguous; but it is 
only the actual presence of an object, that transports it with a superior 
vivacity. When I am a few miles from home, whatever relates to it 
touches me more nearly than when I am two hundred leagues dis- 
tant; though even at that distance the reflecting on any thing in the 



SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF DOUBTS 329 

neighbourhood of my friends or family naturally produces an idea 
of them. But as in this latter case, both the objects of the mind are 
ideas; notwithstanding there is an easy transition between them; 
that transition alone is not able to give a superior vivacity to any of 
the ideas, for want of some immediate impression. 2 

No one can doubt but causation has the same influence as the 
other two relations of resemblance and contiguity. Superstitious 
people are fond of the reliques of saints and holy men, for the same 
reason, that they seek after types or images, in order to enliven their 
devotion, and give them a more intimate and strong conception of 
those exemplary lives, which they desire to imitate. Now it is evi- 
dent, that one of the best reliques, which a devotee could procure, 
would be the handy work of a saint; and if his cloaths and furniture 
are ever to be considered in this light, it is because they were once at 
his disposal, and were moved and affected by him; in which re- 
spect they are to be considered as imperfect effects, and as connected 
with him by a shorter chain of consequences than any of those, by 
which we learn the reality of his existence. 

Suppose, that the son of a friend, who had been long dead or ab- 
sent, were presented to us; it is evident, that this object would in- 
stantly revive its correlative idea, and recall to our thoughts all past 
intimacies and familiarities, in more lively colours than they would 
otherwise have appeared to us. This is another phaenomenon, 
which seems to prove the principle above mentioned. 

We may observe, that, in these phaenomena, the belief of the cor- 
relative object is always presupposed; without which the relation 
could have no effect. The influence of the picture supposes, that we 
believe our friend to have once existed. Contiguity to home can never 
excite our ideas of home, unless we believe that it really exists. Now 

2 'Naturane nobis, inquit, datum dicam, an errore quodam, ut, cum ea loca videa- 
mus, in quibus memoria dignos viros acceperimus multum esse versatos, magis movea- 
mur, quam siquando eorum ipsorum aut facta audiamus autscriptum aliquod legamus? 
Velut ego nunc moveor. Venit enim mihi Plato in mentem, quem accepimus primum 
hie disputare solitum: cuius etiam illi hortuli propinqui non memoriam solum mihi 
afTerunt, sed ipsum videntur in conspectu meo hie ponere. Hie Speusippus, hie 
Xenocrates, hie eius auditor Polemo; cuius ipsa ilia sessio fuit, quam videmus. Equi- 
dem etiam curiam nostram, Hostiliam dico, non hanc novam, quae mihi minor esse 
videtur postquam est maior, solebam intuens, Scipionem, Catonem, Laelium, nostrum 
vero in primis avum cogitare. Tanta vis admonitionis est in locis; ut non sine causa 
ex his memoriae deducta sit disciplina.' Cicero de Finibus. Lib. v. 



330 DAVID HUME 

I assert, that this belief, where it reaches beyond the memory or 
senses, is of a similar nature, and arises from similar causes, with 
the transition of thought and vivacity of conception here explained. 
When I throw a piece of dry wood into a fire, my mind is im- 
mediately carried to conceive, that it augments, not extinguishes 
the flame. This transition of thought from the cause to the effect 
proceeds not from reason. It derives its origin altogether from 
custom and experience. And as it first begins from an object, present 
to the senses, it renders the idea or conception of flame more strong 
and lively than any loose, floating reverie of the imagination. That 
idea arises immediately. The thought moves instantly towards it, 
and conveys to it all that force of conception, which is derived from 
the impression present to the senses. When a sword is levelled at 
my breast, does not the idea of wound and pain strike me more 
strongly, than when a glass of wine is presented to me, even though 
by accident this idea should occur after the appearance of the latter 
object? But what is there in this whole matter to cause such a 
strong conception, except only a present object and a customary 
transition of the idea of another object, which we have been accus- 
tomed to conjoin with the former? This is the whole operation of 
the mind, in all our conclusions concerning matter of fact and 
existence; and it is a satisfaction to find some analogies, by which 
it may be explained. The transition from a present object does in 
all cases give strength and solidity to the related idea. 

Here, then, is a kind of pre-established harmony between the 
course of nature and the succession of our ideas; and though the 
powers and forces, by which the former is governed, be wholly 
unknown to us; yet our thoughts and conceptions have still, we 
find, gone on in the same train with the other works of nature. 
Custom is that principle, by which this correspondence has been 
effected; so necessary to the subsistence of our species, and the 
regulation of our conduct, in every circumstance and occurrence 
of human life. Had not the presence of an object, instantly excited 
the idea of those objects, commonly conjoined with it, all our knowl- 
edge must have been limited to the narrow sphere of our memory 
and senses; and we should never have been able to adjust means to 
ends, or employ our natural powers, either to the producing of good, 



SCEPTICAL SOLUTION OF DOUBTS 331 

or avoiding of evil. Those, who delight in the discovery and con- 
templation of final causes, have here ample subject to employ their 
wonder and admiration. 

I shall add, for a further confirmation of the foregoing theory, 
that, as this operation of the mind, by which we infer like effects 
from like causes, and vice versa, is so essential to the subsistence of 
all human creatures, it is not probable, that it could be trusted to 
the fallacious deductions of our reason, which is slow in its opera- 
tions; appears not, in any degree, during the first years of infancy; 
and at best is, in every age and period of human life, extremely 
liable to error and mistake. It is more conformable to the ordinary 
wisdom of nature to secure so necessary an act of the mind, by some 
instinct or mechanical tendency, which may be infallible in its 
operations, may discover itself at the first appearance of life and 
thought, and may be independent of all the laboured deductions 
of the understanding. As nature has taught us the use of our limbs, 
without giving us the knowledge of the muscles and nerves, by 
which they are actuated; so has she implanted in us an instinct, 
which carries forward the thought in a correspondent course to that 
which she has established among external objects; though we are 
ignorant of those powers and forces, on which this regular course 
and succession of objects totally depends. 



SECTION VI 

OF PROBABILITY 1 

THOUGH there be no such thing as Chance in the world; 
our ignorance of the real cause of any event has the same 
influence on the understanding, and begets a like species 
of belief or opinion. 

There is certainly a probability, which arises from a superiority 
of chances on any side; and according as this superiority increases, 
and surpasses the opposite chances, the probability receives a pro- 
portionable increase, and begets still a higher degree of belief or assent 
to that side, in which we discover the superiority. If a dye were 
marked with one figure or number of spots on four sides, and with 
another figure or number of spots on the two remaining sides, it 
would be more probable, that the former would turn up than the 
latter; though, if it had a thousand sides marked in the same manner, 
and only one side different, the probability would be much higher, 
and our belief or expectation of the event more steady and secure. 
This process of the thought or reasoning may seem trivial and 
obvious; but to those who consider it more narrowly, it may, per- 
haps, afford matter for curious speculation. 

It seems evident, that, when the mind looks forward to discover 
the event, which may result from the throw of such a dye, it con- 
siders the turning up of each particular side as alike probable; and 
this is the very nature of chance, to render all the particular events, 
comprehended in it, entirely equal. But finding a greater number 
of sides concur in the one event than in the other, the mind is car- 
ried more frequently to that event, and meets it oftener, in revolving 
the various possibilities or chances, on which the ultimate result 

1 Mr. Locke divides all arguments into demonstrative and probable. In this view, 
we must say, that it is only probable all men must die, or that the sun will rise to-mor- 
row. But to conform our language more to common use, we ought to divide argu- 
ments into demonstrations, proofs, and probabilities. By proofs meaning such argu- 
ments from experience as leave no room for doubt or opposition. 

332 



PROBABILITY 333 

depends. This concurrence of several views in one particular event 
begets immediately, by an inexplicable contrivance of nature, the 
sentiment of belief, and gives that event the advantage over its 
antagonist, which is supported by a smaller number of views, and 
recurs less frequently to the mind. If we allow, that belief is nothing 
but a firmer and stronger conception of an object than what attends 
the mere fictions of the imagination, this operation may, perhaps, 
in some measure, be accounted for. The concurrence of these several 
views or glimpses imprints the idea more strongly on the imagina- 
tion; gives it superior force and vigour; renders its influence on the 
passions and affections more sensible; and in a word, begets that 
reliance or security, which constitutes the nature of belief and 
opinion. 

The case is the same with the probability of causes, as with that 
of chance. There are some causes, which are entirely uniform and 
constant in producing a particular effect; and no instance has ever 
yet been found of any failure or irregularity in their operation. 
Fire has always burned, and water suffocated every human creature : 
the production of motion by impulse and gravity is an universal 
law, which has hitherto admitted of no exception. But there are 
other causes, which have been found more irregular and uncertain; 
nor has rhubarb always proved a purge, or opium a soporific to 
every one, who has taken these medicines. It is true, when any 
cause fails of producing its usual effect, philosophers ascribe not 
this to any irregularity in nature; but suppose, that some secret 
causes, in the particular structure of parts, have prevented the 
operation. Our reasonings, however, and conclusions concerning 
the event are the same as if this principle had no place. Being 
determined by custom to transfer the past to the future, in all our 
inferences; where the past has been entirely regular and uniform, 
we expect the event with the greatest assurance, and leave no room 
for any contrary supposition. But where different effects have been 
found to follow from causes, which are to appearance exactly similar, 
all these various effects must occur to the mind in transferring the 
past to the future, and enter into our consideration, when we de- 
termine the probability of the event. Though we give the preference 
to that which has been found most usual, and believe that this effect 



334 DAVID HUME 

will exist, we must not overlook the other effects, but must assign 
to each of them a particular weight and authority, in proportion as 
we have found it to be more or less frequent. It is more probable, 
in almost every country of Europe, that there will be frost some- 
time in January, than that the weather will continue open through- 
out that whole month; though this probability varies according to 
the different climates, and approaches to a certainty in the more 
northern kingdoms. Here then it seems evident, that, when we 
transfer the past to the future, in order to determine the effect, which 
will result from any cause, we transfer all the different events, in 
the same proportion as they have appeared in the past, and conceive 
one to have existed a hundred times, for instance, another ten times, 
and another once. As a great number of views do here concur in 
one event, they fortify and confirm it to the imagination, beget that 
sentiment which we call belief, and give its object the preference 
above the contrary event, which is not supported by an equal num- 
ber of experiments, and recurs not so frequently to the thought in 
transferring the past to the future. Let any one try to account for 
this operation of the mind upon any of the received systems of 
philosophy, and he will be sensible of the difficulty. For my part, 
I shall think it sufficient, if the present hints excite the curiosity of 
philosophers, and make them sensible how defective all common 
theories are in treating of such curious and such sublime subjects. 



SECTION VII 

OF THE IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 

PART! 

THE great advantage of the mathematical sciences above 
the moral consists in this, that the ideas of the former, 
being sensible, are always clear and determinate, the small- 
est distinction between them is immediately perceptible, and the 
same terms are still expressive of the same ideas, without ambiguity 
or variation. An oval is never mistaken for a circle, nor an hyperbola 
for an ellipsis. The isosceles and scalenum are distinguished by 
boundaries more exact than vice and virtue, right and wrong. If 
any term be defined in geometry, the mind readily, of itself, sub- 
stitutes, on all occasions, the definition for the term defined : or even 
when no definition is employed, the object itself may be presented 
to the senses, and by that means be steadily and clearly apprehended. 
But the finer sentiments of the mind, the operations of the under- 
standing, the various agitations of the passions, though really in 
themselves distinct, easily escape us, when surveyed by reflection; 
nor is it in our power to recall the original object, as often as we 
have occasion to contemplate it. Ambiguity, by this means, is grad- 
ually introduced into our reasonings: similar objects are readily 
taken to be the same: and the conclusion becomes at last very wide 
of the premises. 

One may safely, however, affirm, that, if we consider these sciences 
in a proper light, their advantages and disadvantages nearly com- 
pensate each other, and reduce both of them to a state of equality. 
If the mind, with greater facility, retains the ideas of geometry clear 
and determinate, it must carry on a much longer and more intricate 
chain of reasoning, and compare ideas much wider of each other, 
in order to reach the abstruser truths of that science. And if moral 

335 



336 DAVID HUME 

ideas are apt, without extreme care, to fall into obscurity and con- 
fusion, the inferences are always much shorter in these disquisitions, 
and the intermediate steps, which lead to the conclusion, much 
fewer than in the sciences which treat of quantity and number. In 
reality, there is scarcely a proposition in Euclid so simple, as not to 
consist of more parts, than are to be found in any moral reasoning 
which runs not into chimera and conceit. Where we trace the 
principles of the human mind through a few steps, we may be very 
well satisfied with our progress; considering how soon nature throws 
a bar to all our enquiries concerning causes, and reduces us to an 
acknowledgment of our ignorance. The chief obstacle, therefore, 
to our improvement in the moral or metaphysical sciences is the 
obscurity of the ideas, and ambiguity of the terms. The principal 
difficulty in the mathematics is the length of inferences and compass 
of thought, requisite to the forming of any conclusion. And, per- 
haps, our progress in natural philosophy is chiefly retarded by the 
want of proper experiments and phenomena, which are often dis- 
covered by chance, and cannot always be found, when requisite, 
even by the most diligent and prudent enquiry. As moral philosophy 
seems hitherto to have received less improvement than either geom- 
etry or physics, we may conclude, that, if there be any difference in 
this respect among these sciences, the difficulties, which obstruct the 
progress of the former, require superior care and capacity to be 
surmounted. 

There are no ideas, which occur in metaphysics, more obscure 
and uncertain, than those of power, force, energy or necessary con- 
nexion, of which it is every moment necessary for us to treat in all 
our disquisitions. We shall, therefore, endeavour, in this section, to 
fix, if possible, the precise meaning of these terms, and thereby re- 
move some part of that obscurity, which is so much complained of 
in this species of philosophy. 

It seems a proposition, which will not admit of much dispute, 
that all our ideas are nothing but copies of our impressions, or, in 
other words, that it is impossible for us to thin\ of anything, which 
we have not antecedently felt, either by our external or internal senses. 
I have endeavoured 1 to explain and prove this proposition, and have 

Section II. 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 337 

expressed my hopes, that, by a proper application of it, men may reach 
a greater clearness and precision in philosophical reasonings, than 
what they have hitherto been able to attain. Complex ideas, may, 
perhaps, be well known by definition, which is nothing but an 
enumeration of those parts or simple ideas, that compose them. But 
when we have pushed up definitions to the most simple ideas, and 
find still more ambiguity and obscurity; what resource are we then 
possessed of? By what invention can we throw light upon these 
ideas, and render them altogether precise and determinate to our 
intellectual view? Produce the impressions or original sentiments, 
from which the ideas are copied. These impressions are all strong 
and sensible. They admit not of ambiguity. They are not only 
placed in a full light themselves, but may throw light on their cor- 
respondent ideas, which lie in obscurity. And by this means, we 
may, perhaps, attain a new microscope or species of optics, by which, 
in the moral sciences, the most minute, and most simple ideas may 
be so enlarged as to fall readily under our apprehension, and be 
equally known with the grossest and most sensible ideas, that can 
be the object of our enquiry. 

To be fully acquainted, therefore, with the idea of power or neces- 
sary connexion, let us examine its impression; and in order to find 
the impression with greater certainty, let us search for it in all the 
sources, from which it may possibly be derived. 

When we look about us towards external objects, and consider 
the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to 
discover any power or necessary connexion; any quality, which binds 
the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence 
of the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, fol- 
low the other. The impulse of one billiard-ball is attended with 
motion in the second. This is the whole that appears to the outward 
senses. The mind feels no sentiment or inward impression from 
this succession of objects: consequently, there is not, in any single, 
particular instance of cause and effect, any thing which can suggest 
the idea of power or necessary connexion. 

From the first appearance of an object, we never can conjecture 
what effect will result from it. But were the power or energy of any 
cause discoverable by the mind, we could foresee the effect, even 



338 DAVID HUME 

without experience; and might, at first, pronounce with certainty 
concerning it, by mere dint of thought and reasoning. 

In reality, there is no part of matter, that does ever, by its sensible 
qualities, discover any power or energy, or give us ground to imagine, 
that it could produce any thing, or be followed by any other object, 
which we could denominate its effect. Solidity, extension, motion; 
these qualities are all complete in themselves, and never point out 
any other event which may result from them. The scenes of the 
universe are continually shifting, and one object follows another in 
an uninterrupted succession; but the power of force, which actuates 
the whole machine, is entirely concealed from us, and never discovers 
itself in any of the sensible qualities of body. We know that, in fact, 
heat is a constant attendant of flame; but what is the connexion be- 
tween them, we have no room so much as to conjecture or imagine. 
It is impossible, therefore, that the idea of power can be derived 
from the contemplation of bodies, in single instances of their opera- 
tion; because no bodies ever discover any power, which can be the 
original of this idea. 2 

Since, therefore, external objects as they appear to the senses, give 
us no idea of power or necessary connexion, by their operation in 
particular instances, let us see, whether this idea be derived from 
reflection on the operations of our own minds, and be copied from 
any internal impression. It may be said, that we are every moment 
conscious of internal power; while we feel, that, by the simple com- 
mand of our will, we can move the organs of our body, or direct the 
faculties of our mind. An act of volition produces motion in our 
limbs, or raises a new idea in our imagination. This influence of 
the will we know by consciousness. Hence we acquire the idea of 
power or energy; and are certain, that we ourselves and all other 
intelligent beings are possessed of power. This idea, then, is an idea 
of reflection, since it arises from reflecting on the operations of our 
own mind, and on the command which is exercised by will, both 
over the organs of the body and faculties of the soul. 

2 Mr. Locke, in his chapter of power, says that, finding from experience, that 
there are several new productions in matter, and concluding that there must some- 
where be a power capable of producing them, we arrive at last by this reasoning at 
the idea of power. But no reasoning can ever give us a new, original, simple idea; as 
this philosopher himself confesses. This, therefore, can never be the origin of that idea. 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 339 

We shall proceed to examine this pretension; and first with regard 
to the influence of volition over the organs of the body. This in- 
fluence, we may observe, is a fact, which, like all other natural 
events, can be known only by experience, and can never be foreseen 
from any apparent energy or power in the cause, which connects 
it with the effect, and renders the one an infallible consequence of 
the other. The motion of our body follows upon the command of 
our will. Of this we are every moment conscious. But the means, 
by which this is effected; the energy, by which the will performs 
so extraordinary an operation; of this we are so far from being 
immediately conscious, that it must for ever escape our most diligent 
enquiry. 

For first: Is there any principle in all nature more mysterious than 
the union of soul with body; by which a supposed spiritual sub- 
stance acquires such an influence over a material one, that the most 
refined thought is able to actuate the grossest matter? Were we 
empowered, by a secret wish, to remove mountains, or control the 
planets in their orbit; this extensive authority would not be more 
extraordinary, nor more beyond our comprehension. But if by con- 
sciousness we perceived any power or energy in the will, we must 
know this power; we must know its connexion with the effect; we 
must know the secret union of soul and body, and the nature of 
both these substances; by which the one is able to operate, in so 
many instances, upon the other. 

Secondly, We are not able to move all the organs of the body 
with a like authority; though we cannot assign any reason besides 
experience, for so remarkable a difference between one and the 
other. Why has the will an influence over the tongue and fingers, 
not over the heart or liver? This question would never embarrass 
us, were we conscious of a power in the former case, not in the 
latter. We should then perceive, independent of experience, why 
the authority of will over the organs of the body is circumscribed 
within such particular limits. Being in that case fully acquainted 
with the power or force, by which it operates, we should also know, 
why its influence reaches precisely to such boundaries, and no farther. 

A man, suddenly struck with palsy in the leg or arm, or who had 
newly lost those members, frequently endeavours at first to move 



34O DAVID HUME 

them, and employ them, in their usual offices. Here he is as much 
conscious of power to command such limbs, as a man in perfect 
health is conscious of power to actuate any member which remains 
in its natural state and condition. But consciousness never deceives. 
Consequently, neither in the one case nor in the other, are we ever 
conscious of any power. We learn the influence of our will from 
experience alone. And experience only teaches us, how one event 
constantly follows another; without instructing us in the secret 
connexion, which binds them together, and renders them insepa- 
rable. 

Thirdly, We learn from anatomy, that the immediate object of 
power in voluntary motion, is not the member itself which is moved, 
but certain muscles, and nerves, and animal spirits, and, perhaps, 
something still more minute and more unknown, through which 
the motion is successively propagated, ere it reach the member itself 
whose motion is the immediate object of volition. Can there be a 
more certain proof, that the power, by which this whole operation 
is performed, so far from being directly and fully known by an 
inward sentiment or consciousness is, to the last degree, mysterious 
and unintelligible? Here the mind wills a certain event. Imme- 
diately another event, unknown to ourselves, and totally different 
from the one intended, is produced: This event produces another, 
equally unknown: till at last, through a long succession, the desired 
event is produced. But if the original power were felt, it must be 
known: were it known, its effect also must be known; since all 
power is relative to its effect. And vice versa, if the effect be not 
known, the power cannot be known nor felt. How indeed can we 
be conscious of a power to move our limbs, when we have no such 
power; but only that to move certain animal spirits, which, though 
they produce at last the motion of our limbs, yet operate in such a 
manner as is wholly beyond our comprehension? 

We may, therefore, conclude from the whole, I hope, without 
any temerity, though with assurance; that our idea of power is not 
copied from any sentiment or consciousness of power within our- 
selves, when we give rise to animal motion, or apply our limbs to 
their proper use and office. That their motion follows the command 
of the will is a matter of common experience, like other natural 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 34! 

events: But the power or energy by which this is effected, like that 
in other natural events, is unknown and inconceivable. 3 

Shall we then assert, that we are conscious of a power or energy 
in our own minds, when, by an act or command of our will, we 
raise up a new idea, fix the mind to the contemplation of it, turn it 
on all sides, and at last dismiss it for some other idea, when we think 
that we have surveyed it with sufficient accuracy ? I believe the same 
arguments will prove, that even this command of the will gives us 
no real idea of force or energy. 

First, It must be allowed, that, when we know a power, we know 
that very circumstance in the cause, by which it is enabled to pro- 
duce the effect : for these are supposed to be synonymous. We must, 
therefore, know both the cause and effect, and the relation between 
them. But do we pretend to be acquainted with the nature of the 
human soul and the nature of an idea, or the aptitude of the one to 
produce the other? This is a real creation; a production of something 
out of nothing: which implies a power so great, that it may seem, 
at first sight, beyond the reach of any being, less than infinite. At 
least it must be owned, that such a power is not felt, nor known, 
nor even conceivable by the mind. We only feel the event, namely, 
the existence of an idea, consequent to a command of the will : but 
the manner, in which this operation is performed, the power by 
which it is produced, is entirely beyond our comprehension. 

Secondly, The command of the mind over itself is limited, as well 
as its command over the body; and these limits are not known by 
reason, or any acquaintance with the nature of cause and effect, but 
only by experience and observation, as in all other natural events 

3 It may be pretended, that the resistance which we meet with in bodies, obliging 
us frequently to exert our force, and call up all our power, this gives us the idea 
of force and power. It is this nisus, or strong endeavour, of which we are conscious, 
that is the original impression from which this idea is copied. But, first, we attribute 
power to a vast number of objects, where we never can suppose this resistance or 
exertion of force to take place; to the Supreme Being, who never meets with any 
resistance; to the mind in its command over its ideas and limbs, in common thinking 
and motion, where the effect follows immediately upon the will, without any exertion 
or summoning up of force; to inanimate matter, which is not capable of this senti- 
ment. Secondly, This sentiment of an endeavour to overcome resistance has no 
known connexion with any event: What follows it, we know by experience; but could 
not know it a priori. It must, however, be confessed, that the animal nisus, which we 
experience, though it can afford no accurate precise idea of power, enters very much 
into that vulgar, inaccurate idea, which is formed of it. 



342 DAVID HUME 

and in the operation of external objects. Our authority over our 
sentiments and passions is much weaker than that over our ideas; 
and even the latter authority is circumscribed within very narrow 
boundaries. Will any one pretend to assign the ultimate reason of 
these boundaries, or show why the power is deficient in one case, 
not in another. 

Thirdly, This self-command is very different at different times. 
A man in health possesses more of it than one languishing with 
sickness. We are more master of our thoughts in the morning than 
in the evening: fasting, than after a full meal. Can we give any 
reason for these variations, except experience? Where then is the 
power, of which we pretend to be conscious? Is there not here, 
either in a spiritual or material substance, or both, some secret mech- 
anism or structure of parts, upon which the effect depends, and 
which, being entirely unknown to us, renders the power or energy 
of the will equally unknown and incomprehensible? 

Volition is surely an act of the mind, with which we are sufficiently 
acquainted. Reflect upon it. Consider it on all sides. Do you find 
anything in it like this creative power, by which it raises from 
nothing a new idea, and with a kind of Fiat, imitates the omnip- 
otence of its Maker, if I may be allowed so to speak, who called 
forth into existence all the various scenes of nature? So far from 
being conscious of this energy in the will, it requires as certain ex- 
perience as that of which we are possessed, to convince us that such 
extraordinary effects do ever result from a simple act of volition. 

The generality of mankind never find any difficulty in account- 
ing for the more common and familiar operations of nature such 
as the descent of heavy bodies, the growth of plants, the generation 
of animals, or the nourishment of bodies by food : but suppose that, 
in all these cases, they perceive the very force or energy of the cause, 
by which it is connected with its effect, and is for ever infallible in 
its operation. They acquire, by long habit, such a turn of mind, that, 
upon the appearance of the cause, they immediately expect with 
assurance its usual attendant, and hardly conceive it possible that 
any other event could result from it. It is only on the discovery of 
extraordinary phaenomena, such as earthquakes, pestilence, and 
prodigies of any kind, that they find themselves at a loss to assign a 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 343 

proper cause, and to explain the manner in which the effect is pro- 
duced by it. It is usual for men, in such difficulties, to have recourse 
to some invisible intelligent principle 4 as the immediate cause of 
that event which surprises them, and which, they think, cannot be 
accounted for from the common powers of nature. But philosophers, 
who carry their scrutiny a little farther, immediately perceive that, 
even in the most familiar events, the energy of the cause is as un- 
intelligible as in the most unusual, and that we only learn by ex- 
perience the frequent Conjunction of objects, without being ever 
able to comprehend anything like Connexion between them. Here, 
then, many philosophers think themselves obliged by reason to have 
recourse, on all occasions, to the same principle, which the vulgar 
never appeal to but in cases that appear miraculous and supernatural. 
They acknowledge mind and intelligence to be, not only the ultimate 
and original cause of all things, but the immediate and sole cause 
of every event which appears in nature. They pretend that those 
objects which are commonly denominated causes, are in reality 
nothing but occasions; and that the true and direct principle of every 
effect is not any power or force in nature, but a volition of the 
Supreme Being, who wills that such particular objects should for 
ever be conjoined with each other. Instead of saying that one billiard- 
ball moves another by a force which it has derived from the author 
of nature, it is the Deity himself, they say, who, by a particular 
volition, moves the second ball, being determined to this operation 
by the impulse of the first ball, in consequence of those general laws 
which he has laid down to himself in the government of the uni- 
verse. But philosophers advancing still in their inquiries, discover 
that, as we are totally ignorant of the power on which depends the 
mutual operation of bodies, we are no less ignorant of that power 
on which depends the operation of mind on body, or of body on 
mind, nor are we able, either from our senses or consciousness, to 
assign the ultimate principle in one case more than in the other. 
The same ignorance, therefore, reduces them to the same conclusion. 
They assert that the Deity is the immediate cause of the union be- 
tween soul and body; and that they are not the organs of sense, 
which, being agitated by external objects, produce sensations in the 



344 DAVID HUME 

mind; but that it is a particular volition of our omnipotent Maker, 
which excites such a sensation, in consequence of such a motion in 
the organ. In like manner, it is not any energy in the will that pro- 
duces local motion in our members : it is God himself, who is pleased 
to second our will, in itself impotent, and to command that motion 
which we erroneously attribute to our own power and efficacy. Nor 
do philosophers stop at this conclusion. They sometimes extend the 
same inference to the mind itself, in its internal operations. Our 
mental vision or conception of ideas is nothing but a revelation made 
to us by our Maker. When we voluntarily turn our thoughts to any 
object, and raise up its image in the fancy, it is not the will which 
creates that idea: it is the universal Creator, who discovers it to the 
mind, and renders it present to us. 

Thus, according to these philosophers, every thing is full of God. 
Not content with the principle, that nothing exists but by his will, 
that nothing possesses any power but by his concession: they rob 
nature, and all created beings, of every power, in order to render 
their dependence on the Deity still more sensible and immediate. 
They consider not that, by this theory, they diminish, instead of 
magnifying, the grandeur of those attributes, which they affect so 
much to celebrate. It argues surely more power in the Deity to dele- 
gate a certain degree of power to inferior creatures than to produce 
every thing by his own immediate volition. It argues more wisdom 
to contrive at first the fabric of the world with such perfect fore- 
sight that, of itself, and by its proper operation, it may serve all the 
purposes of providence, than if the great Creator were obliged every 
moment to adjust its parts, and animate by his breath all the wheels 
of that stupendous machine. 

But if we would have a more philosophical confutation of this 
theory, perhaps the two following reflections may suffice: 

First, it seems to me that this theory of the universal energy and 
operation of the Supreme Being is too bold ever to carry conviction 
with it to a man, sufficiently apprized of the weakness of human 
reason, and the narrow limits to which it is confined in all its 
operations. Though the chain of arguments which conduct to it 
were ever so logical, there must arise a strong suspicion, if not an 
absolute assurance, that it has carried us quite beyond the reach of 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 345 

our faculties, when it leads to conclusions so extraordinary, and so 
remote from common life and experience. We are got into fairy 
land, long ere we have reached the last steps of our theory; and 
there we have no reason to trust our common methods of argument, 
or to think that our usual analogies and probabilities have any 
authority. Our line is too short to fathom such immense abysses. 
And however we may flatter ourselves that we are guided, in every 
step which we take, by a kind of verisimilitude and experience, we 
may be assured that this fancied experience has no authority when 
we= thus apply it to subjects that lie entirely out of the sphere of 
experience. But on this we shall have occasion to touch afterwards. 5 
Secondly, I cannot perceive any force in the arguments on which 
this theory is founded. We are ignorant, it is true, of the manner 
in which bodies operate on each other: their force or energy is en- 
tirely incomprehensible: but are we not equally ignorant of the 
manner or force by which a mind, even the supreme mind, operates 
either on itself or on body? Whence, I beseech you, do we acquire 
any idea of it ? We have no sentiment or consciousness of this power 
in ourselves. We have no idea of the Supreme Being but what we 
learn from reflection on our own faculties. Were our ignorance, 
therefore, a good reason for rejecting any thing, we should be led 
into that principle of denying all energy in the Supreme Being as 
much as in the grossest matter. We surely comprehend as little the 
operations of one as of the other. Is it more difficult to conceive that 
motion may arise from impulse than that it may arise from volition ? 
All we know is our profound ignorance in both cases. 6 

5 Section XII. 

6 1 need not examine at length the vis inertiae which is so much talked of in the 
new philosophy, and which is ascribed to matter. We find by experience, that a 
body at rest or in motion continues for ever in its present state, till put from it by 
some new cause; and that a body impelled takes as much motion from the impelling 
body as it acquires itself. These are facts. When we call this a vis inertiae, we 
only mark these facts, without pretending to have any idea of the inert power; in 
the same manner as, when we talk of gravity, we mean certain effects, without com- 
prehending that active power. It was never the meaning of Sir ISAAC NEWTON to rob 
second causes of all force or energy; though some of his followers have endeavoured 
to establish that theory upon his authority. On the contrary, that great philosopher 
had recourse to an etherial active fluid to explain his universal attraction; though 
he was so cautious and modest as to allow, that it was a mere hypothesis, not to be 
insisted on, without more experiments. I must confess, that there is something in the 
fate of opinions a little extraordinary. DES CARTES insinuated that doctrine of the 
universal and sole efficacy of the Deity, without insisting on it. MALEBRANCHE and 



346 DAVID HUME 

PART II 

BUT to hasten to a conclusion of this argument, which is already 
drawn out to too great a length : we have sought in vain for an idea 
of power or necessary connexion in all the sources from which we 
could suppose it to be derived. It appears that, in single instances 
of the operation of bodies, we never can, by our utmost scrutiny, 
discover any thing but one event following another, without being 
able to comprehend any force or power by which the cause operates, 
or any connexion between it and its supposed effect. The same 
difficulty occurs in contemplating the operations of mind on body 
where we observe the motion of the latter to follow upon the volition 
of the former, but are not able to observe or conceive the tie which 
binds together the motion and volition, or the energy by which the 
mind produces this effect. The authority of the will over its own 
faculties and ideas is not a whit more comprehensible : so that, upon 
the whole, there appears not, throughout all nature, any one in- 
stance of connexion which is conceivable by us. All events seem 
entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we 
never can observe any tie between them. They seem conjoined, but 
never connected. And as we can have no idea of any thing which 
never appeared to our outward sense or inward sentiment, the nec- 
essary conclusion seems to be that we have no idea of connexion or 
power at all, and that these words are absolutely, without any mean- 
ing, when employed either in philosophical reasonings or common 
life. 

But there still remains one method of avoiding this conclusion, 
and one source which we have not yet examined. When any natural 
object or event is presented, it is impossible for us, by any sagacity 
or penetration, to discover, or even conjecture, without experience, 
what event will result from it, or to carry our foresight beyond that 
object which is immediately present to the memory and senses. Even 
after one instance or experiment where we have observed a par- 
other CARTESIANS made it the foundation of all their philosophy. It had, however, 
no authority in England. LOCKE, CLARKE, and CUDWORTH, never so much as take 
notice of it, but suppose all along, that matter has a real, though subordinate and 
derived power. By what means has it become so prevalent among our modern 
metaphysicians? 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 347 

ticular event to follow upon another, we are not entitled to form a 
general rule, or foretell what will happen in like cases; it being 
justly esteemed an unpardonable temerity to judge of the whole 
course of nature from one single experiment, however accurate or 
certain. But when one particular species of event has always, in all 
instances, been conjoined with another, we make no longer any 
scruple of foretelling one upon the appearance of the other, and of 
employing that reasoning, which can alone assure us of any matter 
of fact or existence. We then call the one object, Cause; the other, 
Effect. We suppose that there is some connexion between them; 
some power in the one, by which it infallibly produces the other, 
and operates with the greatest certainty and strongest necessity. 

It appears, then, that this idea of a necessary connexion among 
events arises from a number of similar instances which occur of the 
constant conjunction of these events; nor can that idea ever be sug- 
gested by any one of these instances, surveyed in all possible lights 
and positions. But there is nothing in a number of instances, dif- 
ferent from every single instance, which is supposed to be exactly 
similar; except only, that after a repetition of similar instances, the 
mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect 
its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist. This connexion, 
therefore, which we feel in the mind, this customary transition of 
the imagination from one object to its usual attendant, is the senti- 
ment or impression from which we form the idea of power or neces- 
sary connexion. Nothing farther is in the case. Contemplate the 
subject on all sides; you will never find any other origin of that idea. 
This is the sole difference between one instance, from which we can 
never receive the idea of connexion, and a number of similar in- 
stances, by which it is suggested. The first time a man saw the 
communication of motion by impulse, as by the shock of two bil- 
liard balls, he could not pronounce that the one event was connected: 
but only that it was conjoined with the other. After he has observed 
several instances of this nature, he then pronounces them to be con- 
nected. What alteration has happened to give rise to this new idea 
of connexion? Nothing but that he now feels these events to be 
connected in his imagination, and can readily foretell the existence 
of one from the appearance of the other. When we say, therefore, 



348 DAVID HUME 

that one object is connected with another, we mean only that they 
have acquired a connexion in our thought, and give rise to this 
inference, by which they become proofs of each other's existence: 
A conclusion which is somewhat extraordinary, but which seems 
founded on sufficient evidence. Nor will its evidence be weakened 
by any general diffidence of the understanding, or sceptical suspicion 
concerning every conclusion which is new and extraordinary. No 
conclusions can be more agreeable to scepticism than such as make 
discoveries concerning the weakness and narrow limits of human 
reason and capacity. 

And what stronger instance can be produced of the surprising 
ignorance and weakness of the understanding than the present. For 
surely, if there be any relation among objects which it imports to us 
to know perfectly, it is that of cause and effect. On this are founded 
all our reasonings concerning matter of fact or existence. By means 
of it alone we attain any assurance concerning objects which are 
removed from the present testimony of our memory and senses. 
The only immediate utility of all sciences, is to teach us, how to 
control and regulate future events by their causes. Our thoughts 
and enquiries are, therefore, every moment, employed about this 
relation: yet so imperfect are the ideas which we form concerning 
it, that it is impossible to give any just definition of cause, except 
what is drawn from something extraneous and foreign to it. Similar 
objects are always conjoined with similar. Of this we have ex- 
perience. Suitably to this experience, therefore, we may define a 
cause to be an object, followed by another, and where all the objects 
similar to the first are followed by objects similar to the second. Or 
in other words where, if the first object had not been, the second 
never had existed. The appearance of a cause always conveys the 
mind, by a customary transition, to the idea of the effect. Of this 
also we have experience. We may, therefore, suitably to this ex- 
perience, form another definition of cause, and call it, an object fol- 
lowed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought 
to that other. But though both these definitions be drawn from cir- 
cumstances foreign to the cause, we cannot remedy this inconven- 
ience, or attain any more perfect definition, which may point out 
that circumstance in the cause, which gives it a connexion with its 



IDEA OF NECESSARY CONNEXION 349 

effect. We have no idea of this connexion, nor even any distant 
notion what it is we desire to know, when we endeavour at a con- 
ception of it. We say, for instance, that the vibration of this string 
is the cause of this particular sound. But what do we mean by that 
affirmation? We either mean that this vibration is followed by this 
sound, and that all similar vibrations have been j olio wed by similar 
sounds; or, that this vibration is followed by this sound, and that 
upon the appearance of one the mind anticipates the senses, and 
forms immediately an idea of the other. We may consider the re- 
lation of cause and effect in either of these two lights; but beyond 
these, we have no idea of it. 7 

To recapitulate, therefore, the reasonings of this section: Every 
idea is copied from some preceding impression or sentiment; and 
where we cannot find any impression, we may be certain that there 
is no idea. In all single instances of the operation of bodies or minds, 
there is nothing that produces any impression, nor consequently can 
suggest any idea of power or necessary connexion. But when many 
uniform instances appear, and the same object is always followed by 
the same event; we then begin to entertain the notion of cause and 

7 According to these explications and definitions, the idea of power is relative as 
much as that of cause; and both have a reference to an effect, or some other event 
constantly conjoined with the former. When we consider the unknown circumstance 
of an object, by which the degree or quantity of its effect is fixed and determined, 
we call that its power: and accordingly, it is allowed by all philosophers, that the 
effect is the measure of the power. But if they had any idea of power, as it is in 
itself, why could not they Measure it in itself? The dispute whether the force of 
a body in motion be as its velocity, or the square of its velocity; this dispute, I say, 
need not be decided by comparing its effects in equal or unequal times; but by a 
direct mensuration and comparison. 

As to the frequent use of the words, Force, Power, Energy, &c., which every 
where occur in common conversation, as well as in philosophy; that is no proof, that 
we are acquainted, in any instance, with the connecting principle between cause and 
effect, or can account ultimately for the production of one thing to another. These 
words, as commonly used, have very loose meanings annexed to them; and their 
ideas are very uncertain and confused. No animal can put external bodies in motion 
without the sentiment of a nisus or endeavour; and every animal has a sentiment or 
feeling from the stroke or blow of an external object, that is in motion. These 
sensations, which are merely animal, and from which we can a priori draw no 
inference, we are apt to transfer to inanimate objects, and to suppose, that they have 
some such feelings, whenever they transfer or receive motion. With regard to 
energies, which are exerted, without our annexing to them any idea of communicated 
motion, we consider only the constant experienced conjunction of the events; and as 
we feel a customary connexion between the ideas, we transfer that feeling to the 
objects; as nothing is more usual than to apply to external bodies every internal 
sensation, which they occasion. 



350 DAVID HUME 

connexion. We then feel a new sentiment or impression, to wit, a 
customary connexion in the thought or imagination between one 
object and its usual attendant; and this sentiment is the original of 
that idea which we seek for. For as this idea arises from a number 
of similar instances, and not from any single instance, it must arise 
from that circumstance, in which the number of instances differ 
from every individual instance. But this customary connexion or 
transition of the imagination is the only circumstance in which they 
differ. In every other particular they are alike. The first instance 
which we saw of motion communicated by the shock of two billiard 
balls (to return to this obvious illustration) is exactly similar to any 
instance that may, at present, occur to us; except only, that we could 
not, at first, infer one event from the other; which we are enabled 
to do at present, after so long a course of uniform experience. I 
know not whether the reader will readily apprehend this reasoning. 
I am afraid that, should I multiply words about it, or throw it into 
a greater variety of lights, it would only become more obscure and 
intricate. In all abstract reasonings there is one point of view which, 
if we can happily hit, we shall go farther towards illustrating the 
subject than by all the eloquence and copious expression in the world. 
This point of view we should endeavour to reach, and reserve the 
flowers of rhetoric for subjects which are more adapted to them. 



SECTION VIII 

OF LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 

PART I 

IT might reasonably be expected in questions which have been 
canvassed and disputed with great eagerness, since the first 
origin of science, and philosophy, that the meaning of all the 
terms, at least, should have been agreed upon among the disputants; 
and our enquiries, in the course of .two thousand years, been able 
to pass from words to the true and real subject of the controversy. 
For how easy may it seem to give exact definitions of the terms 
employed in reasoning, and make these definitions, not the mere 
sound of words, the object of future scrutiny and examination? But 
if we consider the matter more narrowly, we shall be apt to draw 
a quite opposite conclusion. From this circumstance alone, that a 
controversy has been long kept on foot, and remains still undecided, 
we may presume that there is some ambiguity in the expression, and 
that the disputants affix different ideas to the terms employed in 
the controversy. For as the faculties of the mind are supposed to be 
naturally alike in every individual; otherwise nothing could be 
more fruitless than to reason or dispute together; it were impossible, 
if men affix the same ideas to their terms, that they could so long 
form different opinions of the same subject; especially when they 
communicate their views, and each party turn themselves on all 
sides, in search of arguments which may give them the victory over 
their antagonists. It is true, if men attempt the discussion of ques- 
tions which lie entirely beyond the reach of human capacity, such as 
those concerning the origin of worlds, or the economy of the in- 
tellectual system or region of spirits, they may long beat the air in 
their fruitless contests, and never arrive at any determinate con- 
clusion. But if the question regard any subject of common life and 
experience, nothing, one would think, could preserve the dispute so 

351 



352 DAVID HUME 

long undecided but some ambiguous expressions, which keep the 
antagonists still at a distance, and hinder them from grappling with 
each other. 

This has been the case in the long disputed question concerning 
liberty and necessity; and to so remarkable a degree that, if I be not 
much mistaken, we shall find, that all mankind, both learned and 
ignorant, have always been of the same opinion with regard to this 
subject, and that a few intelligible definitions would immediately 
have put an end to the whole controversy. I own that this dispute 
has been so much canvassed on all hands, and has led philosophers 
into such a labyrinth of obscure sophistry, that it is no wonder, if 
a sensible reader indulge his ease so far as to turn a deaf ear to the 
proposal of such a question, from which he can expect neither in- 
struction or entertainment. But the state of the argument here pro- 
posed may, perhaps, serve to renew his attention; as it has more 
novelty, promises at least some decision of the controversy, and will 
not much disturb his ease by any intricate or obscure reasoning. 

I hope, therefore, to make it appear that all men have ever agreed 
in the doctrine both of necessity and of liberty, according to any 
reasonable sense, which can be put on these terms; and that the 
whole controversy, has hitherto turned merely upon words. We shall 
begin with examining the doctrine of necessity. 

It is universally allowed that matter, in all its operations, is ac- 
tuated by a necessary force, and that every natural effect is so pre- 
cisely determined by the energy of its cause that no other effect, in 
such particular circumstances, could possibly have resulted from it. 
The degree and direction of every motion is, by the laws of nature, 
prescribed with such exactness that a living creature may as soon 
arise from the shock of two bodies as motion in any other degree or 
direction than what is actually produced by it. Would we, there- 
fore, form a just and precise idea of necessity, we must consider 
whence that idea arises when we apply it to the operation of bodies. 

It seems evident that, if all the scenes of nature were continually 
shifted in such a manner that no two events bore any resemblance 
to each other, but every object was entirely new, without any simil- 
itude to whatever had been seen before, we should never, in that 
case, have attained the least idea of necessity, or of a connexion 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 353 

among these objects. We might say, upon such a supposition, that 
one object or event has followed another; not that one was produced 
by the other. The relation of cause and effect must be utterly un- 
known to mankind. Inference and reasoning concerning the opera- 
tions of nature would, from that moment, be at an end; and the 
memory and senses remain the only canals, by which the knowledge 
of any real existence could possibly have access to the mind. Our 
idea, therefore, of necessity and causation arises entirely from the 
uniformity observable in the operations of nature, where similar 
objects are constantly conjoined together, and the mind is determined 
by custom to infer the one from the appearance of the other. These 
two circumstances form the whole of that necessity, which we ascribe 
to matter. Beyond the constant conjunction of similar objects, and 
the consequent inference from one to the other, we have no notion 
of any necessity or connexion. 

If it appear, therefore, that all mankind have ever allowed, with- 
out any doubt or hesitation, that these two circumstances take place 
in the voluntary actions of men, and in the operations of mind; it 
must follow, that all mankind have ever agreed in the doctrine of 
necessity, and that they have hitherto disputed, merely for not under- 
standing each other. 

As to the first circumstance, the constant and regular conjunction 
of similar events, we may possibly satisfy ourselves by the following 
considerations: It is universally acknowledged that there is a great 
uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and 
that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and 
operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: 
the same events follow from the same causes. Ambition, avarice, 
self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, 
mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been, 
from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the 
actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among man- 
kind. Would you know the sentiments, inclinations, and course of 
life of the Greeks and Romans ? Study well the temper and actions 
of the French and English : You cannot be much mistaken in trans- 
ferring to the former most of the observations which you have made 
with regard to the latter. Mankind are so much the same, in all 



354 DAVID HUME 

times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange 
in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and 
universal principles of human nature, by showing men in all varieties 
of circumstances and situations, and furnishing us with materials 
from which we may form our observations and become acquainted 
with the regular springs of human action and behaviour. These 
records of wars, intrigues, factions, and revolutions, are so many 
collections of experiments, by which the politician or moral philos- 
opher fixes the principles of his science, in the same manner as the 
physician or natural philosopher becomes acquainted with the nature 
of plants, minerals, and other external objects, by the experiments 
which he forms concerning them. Nor are the earth, water, and 
other elements, examined by Aristotle, and Hippocrates, more like 
to those which at present lie under our observation than the men 
described by Polybius and Tacitus are to those who now govern the 
world. 

Should a traveller, returning from a far country, bring us an 
account of men, wholly different from any with whom we were 
ever acquainted; men, who were entirely divested of avarice, am- 
bition, or revenge; who knew no pleasure but friendship, generosity, 
and public spirit; we should immediately, from these circumstances, 
detect the falsehood, and prove him a liar, with the same certainty 
as if he had stufTed his narration with stories of centaurs and dragons, 
miracles and prodigies. And if we would explode any forgery in 
history, we cannot make use of a more convincing argument, than 
to prove, that the actions ascribed to any person are directly con- 
trary to the course of nature, and that no human motives, in such 
circumstances, could ever induce him to such a conduct. The verac- 
ity of Quintus Curtius is as much to be suspected, when he describes 
the supernatural courage of Alexander, by which he was hurried on 
singly to attack multitudes, as when he describes his supernatural 
force and activity, by which he was able to resist them. So readily 
and universally do we acknowledge a uniformity in human motives 
and actions as well as in the operations of body. 

Hence likewise the benefit of that experience, acquired by long 
life and a variety of business and company, in order to instruct us 
in the principles of human nature, and regulate our future conduct, 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 355 

as well as speculation. By means of this guide, we mount up to the 
knowledge of men's inclinations and motives, from their actions, 
expressions, and even gestures; and again descend to the interpreta- 
tion of their actions from our knowledge of their motives and in- 
clinations. The general observations treasured up by a course of 
experience, give us the clue of human nature, and teach us to unravel 
all its intricacies. Pretexts and appearances no longer deceive us. 
Public declarations pass for the specious colouring of a cause. And 
though virtue and honour be allowed their proper weight and au- 
thority, that perfect disinterestedness, so often pretended to, is never 
expected in multitudes and parties; seldom in their leaders; and 
scarcely even in individuals of any rank or station. But were there 
no uniformity in human actions, and were every experiment which 
we could form of this kind irregular and anomalous, it were im- 
possible to collect any general observations concerning mankind; 
and no experience, however accurately digested by reflection, would 
ever serve to any purpose. Why is the aged husbandman more skil- 
ful in his calling than the young beginner but because there is a 
certain uniformity in the operation of the sun, rain, and earth 
towards the production of vegetables; and experience teaches the 
old practitioner the rules by which this operation is governed and 
directed. 

We must not, however, expect that this uniformity of human 
actions should be carried to such a length as that all men, in the 
same circumstances, will always act precisely in the same manner, 
without making any allowance for the diversity of characters, prej- 
udices, and opinions. Such a uniformity in every particular, is found 
in no part of nature. On the contrary, from observing the variety 
of conduct in different men, we are enabled to form a greater variety 
of maxims, which still suppose a degree of uniformity and regu- 
larity. 

Are the manners of men different in different ages and countries ? 
We learn thence the great force of custom and education, which 
mould the human mind from its infancy and form it into a fixed 
and established character. Is the behaviour and conduct of the one 
sex very unlike that of the other? Is it thence we become acquainted 
with the different characters which nature has impressed upon the 



356 DAVID HUME 

sexes, and which she preserves with constancy and regularity ? Are 
the actions of the same person much diversified in the different 
periods of his life, from infancy to old age? This affords room for 
many general observations concerning the gradual change of our 
sentiments and inclinations, and the different maxims which pre- 
vail in the different ages of human creatures. Even the characters, 
which are peculiar to each individual, have a uniformity in their 
influence; otherwise our acquaintance with the persons and our 
observation of their conduct could never teach us their dispositions, 
or serve to direct our behaviour with regard to them. 

I grant it possible to find some actions, which seem to have no 
regular connexion with any known motives, and are exceptions to 
all the measures of conduct which have ever been established for 
the government of men. But if we would willingly know what 
judgment should be formed of such irregular and extraordinary 
actions, we may consider the sentiments commonly entertained with 
regard to those irregular events which appear in the course of nature, 
and the operations of external objects. All causes are not conjoined 
to their usual effects with like uniformity. An artificer, who handles 
only dead matter, may be disappointed of his aim, as well as the 
politician, who directs the conduct of sensible and intelligent agents. 

The vulgar, who take things according to their first appearance, 
attribute the uncertainty of events to such an uncertainty in the 
causes as makes the latter often fail of their usual influence; though 
they meet with no impediment in their operation. But philosophers, 
observing that, almost in every part of nature, there is contained a 
vast variety of springs and principles, which are hid, by reason of 
their minuteness or remoteness, find, that it is at least possible the 
contrariety of events may not proceed from any contingency in the 
cause, but from the secret operation of contrary causes. This pos- 
sibility is converted into certainty by farther observation, when they 
remark that, upon an exact scrutiny, a contrariety of effects always 
betrays a contrariety of causes, and proceeds from their mutual 
opposition. A peasant can give no better reason for the stopping of 
any clock or watch than to say that it does not commonly go right: 
But an artist easily perceives that the same force in the spring or 
pendulum has always the same influence on the wheels; but fails 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 357 

of its usual effects, perhaps by reason of a grain of dust, which puts 
a stop to the whole movement. From the observation of several 
parallel instances, philosophers form a maxim that the connexion 
between all causes and effects is equally necessary, and that its seem- 
ing uncertainty in some instances proceeds from the secret opposition 
of contrary causes. 

Thus, for instance, in the human body, when the usual symptoms 
of health or sickness disappoint our expectation; when medicines 
operate not with their wonted powers; when irregular events fol- 
low from any particular cause; the philosopher and physician are 
not surprised at the matter, nor are ever tempted to deny, in general, 
the necessity and uniformity of those principles by which the animal 
economy is conducted. They know that a human body is a mighty 
complicated machine: That many secret powers lurk in it, which 
are altogether beyond our comprehension: That to us it must often 
appear very uncertain in its operations: And that therefore the ir- 
regular events, which outwardly discover themselves, can be no 
proof that the laws of nature are not observed with the greatest 
regularity in its internal operations and government. 

The philosopher, if he be consistent, must apply the same reason- 
ing to the actions and volitions of intelligent agents. The most 
irregular and unexpected resolutions of men may frequently be 
accounted for by those who know every particular circumstance of 
their character and situation. A person of an obliging disposition 
gives a peevish answer: But he has the toothache, or has not dined. 
A stupid fellow; discovers an uncommon alacrity in his carriage: 
But he has met with a sudden piece of good fortune. Or even when 
an action, as sometimes happens, cannot be particularly accounted 
for, either by the person himself or by others; we know, in general, 
that the characters of men are, to a certain degree, inconstant and 
irregular. This is, in a manner, the constant character of human 
nature; though it be applicable, in a more particular manner, to some 
persons who have no fixed rule for their conduct, but proceed in a 
continued course of caprice and inconstancy. The internal principles 
and motives may operate in a uniform manner, notwithstanding 
these seeming irregularities; in the same manner as the winds, rain, 
cloud, and other variations of the weather are supposed to be gov- 



358 DAVID HUME 

erned by steady principles; though not easily discoverable by human 
sagacity and enquiry. 

Thus it appears, not only that the conjunction between motives 
and voluntary actions is as regular and uniform as that between the 
cause and effect in any part of nature; but also that this regular 
conjunction has been universally acknowledged among mankind, 
and has never been the subject of dispute, either in philosophy or 
common life. Now, as it is from past experience that we draw all 
inferences concerning the future, and as we conclude that objects 
will always be conjoined together which we find to have always 
been conjoined; it may seem superfluous to prove that this experi- 
enced uniformity in human actions is a source whence we draw 
inferences concerning them. But in order to throw the argument 
into a greater variety of lights we shall also insist, though briefly, 
on this latter topic. 

The mutual dependence of men is so great in all societies that 
scarce any human action is entirely complete in itself, or is performed 
without some reference to the actions of others, which are requisite 
to make it answer fully the intention of the agent. The poorest 
artificer, who labours alone, expects at least the protection of the 
magistrate, to ensure him the enjoyment of the fruits of his labour. 
He also expects that, when he carries his goods to market, and offers 
them at a reasonable price, he shall find purchasers, and shall be 
able, by the money he acquires, to engage others to supply him with 
those commodities which are requisite for his subsistence. In pro- 
portion as men extend their dealings, and render their intercourse 
with others more complicated, they always comprehend, in their 
schemes of life, a greater variety of voluntary actions, which they 
expect, from the proper motives, to co-operate with their own. In 
all these conclusions they take their measures from past experience, 
in the same manner as in their reasonings concerning external ob- 
jects; and firmly believe that men, as well as all the elements, are 
to continue, in their operations, the same that they have ever found 
them. A manufacturer reckons upon the labour of his servants for 
the execution of any work as much as upon the tools which he em- 
ploys, and would be equally surprised were his expectations dis- 
appointed. In short, this experimental inference and reasoning 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 359 

concerning the actions of others enters so much into human life 
that no man, while awake, is ever a moment without employing it. 
Have we not reason, therefore, to affirm that all mankind have 
always agreed in the doctrine of necessity according to the foregoing 
definition and explication of it? 

Nor have philosophers even entertained a different opinion from 
the people in this particular. For, not to mention that almost every 
action of their life supposes that opinion, there are even few of the 
speculative parts of learning to which it is not essential. What would 
become of history, had we not a dependence on the veracity of the 
historian according to the experience which we have had of man- 
kind ? How could politics he a science, if laws and forms of govern- 
ment had not a uniform influence upon society? Where would be 
the foundation of morals, if particular characters had no certain or 
determinate power to produce particular sentiments, and if these 
sentiments had no constant operation on actions? And with what 
pretence could we employ our criticism upon any poet or polite 
author, if we could not pronounce the conduct and sentiments of 
his actors either natural or unnatural to such characters, and in such 
circumstances? It seems almost impossible, therefore, to engage 
either in science or action of any kind without acknowledging the 
doctrine of necessity, and this inference from motive to voluntary 
actions, from characters to conduct. 

And indeed, when we consider how aptly natural and moral 
evidence link together, and form only one chain of argument, we 
shall make no scruple to allow that they are of the same nature, 
and derived from the same principles. A prisoner who has neither 
money nor interest, discovers the impossibility of his escape, as well 
when he considers the obstinacy of the gaoler, as the walls and bars 
with which he is surrounded; and, in all attempts for his freedom, 
chooses rather to work upon the stone and iron of the one, than 
upon the inflexible nature of the other. The same prisoner, when 
conducted to the scaffold, foresees his death as certainly from the 
constancy and fidelity of his guards, as from the operation of the 
axe or wheel. His mind runs along a certain train of ideas: the 
refusal of the soldiers to consent to his escape; the action of the 
executioner; the separation of the head and body; bleeding, con- 



360 DAVID HUME 

vulsive motions, and death. Here is a connected chain of natural 
causes and voluntary actions; but the mind feels no difference be- 
tween them in passing from one link to another: Nor is it less cer- 
tain of the future event than if it were connected with the objects 
present to the memory or senses, by a train of causes, cemented 
together by what we are pleased to call a physical necessity. The 
same experienced union has the same effect on the mind, whether 
the united objects be motives, volition, and actions; or figure and 
motion. We may change the name of things; but their nature and 
their operation on the understanding never change. 

Were a man, whom I know to be honest and opulent, and with 
whom I live in intimate friendship, to come into my house, where 
I am surrounded with my servants, I rest assured that he is not to 
stab me before he leaves it in order to rob me of my silver standish; 
and I no more suspect this event than the falling of the house itself, 
which is new, and solidly built and founded. But he may have 
been seized with a sudden and unknown frenzy. So may a sudden 
earthquake arise, and shake and tumble my house about my ears. 
I shall therefore change the suppositions. I shall say that I know 
with certainty that he is not to put his hand into the fire and hold 
it there till it be consumed: and this event, I think I can foretell 
with the same assurance, as that, if he throw himself out at the 
window, and meet with no obstruction, he will not remain a moment 
suspended in the air. No suspicion of an unknown frenzy can give 
the least possibility to the former event, which is so contrary to all 
the known principles of human nature. A man who at noon leaves 
his purse full of gold on the pavement at Charing-Cross, may as well 
expect that it will fly away like a feather, as that he will find it un- 
touched an hour after. Above one half of human reasonings con- 
tain inferences of a similar nature, attended with more or less degrees 
of certainty proportioned to our experience of the usual conduct of 
mankind in such particular situations. 

I have frequently considered, what could possibly be the reason 
why all mankind, though they have ever, without hesitation, ac- 
knowledged the doctrine of necessity in their whole practice and 
reasoning, have yet discovered such a reluctance to acknowledge it 
in words, and have rather shown a propensity, in all ages, to profess 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 361 

the contrary opinion. The matter, I think, may be accounted for 
after the following manner. If we examine the operations of body, 
and the production of effects from their causes, we shall find that 
all our faculties can never carry us farther in our knowledge of this 
relation than barely to observe that particular objects are constantly 
conjoined together, and that the mind is carried, by a customary 
transition, from the appearance of one to the belief of the other. 
But though this conclusion concerning human ignorance be the re- 
sult of the strictest scrutiny of this subject, men still entertain a 
strong propensity to believe that they penetrate farther into the 
powers of nature, and perceive something like a necessary con- 
nexion between the cause and the efTect. When again they turn 
their reflections towards the operations of their own minds, and 
feel no such connexion of the motive and the action; they are thence 
apt to suppose, that there is a difference between the effects which 
result from material force, and those which arise from thought and 
intelligence. But being once convinced that we know nothing farther 
of causation of any kind than merely the constant conjunction of 
objects, and the consequent inference of the mind from one to 
another, and finding that these two circumstances are universally 
allowed to have place in voluntary actions; we may be more easily 
led to own the same necessity common to all causes. And though 
this reasoning may contradict the systems of many philosophers, in 
ascribing necessity to the determinations of the will, we shall find, 
upon reflection, that they dissent from it in words only, not in their 
real sentiment. Necessity, according to the sense in which it is here 
taken, has never yet been rejected, nor can ever, I think, be rejected 
by any philosopher. It may only, perhaps, be pretended that the 
mind can perceive, in the operations of matter, some farther con- 
nexion between the cause and effect; and connexion that has not 
place in voluntary actions of intelligent beings. Now whether it be 
so or not, can only appear upon examination; and it is incumbent 
on these philosophers to make good their assertion, by defining or 
describing that necessity, and pointing it out to us in the operations 
of material causes. 

It would seem, indeed, that men begin at the wrong end of this 
question concerning liberty and necessity, when they enter upon it 



362 DAVID HUME 

by examining the faculties of the soul, the influence of the under- 
standing, and the operations of the will. Let them first discuss a 
more simple question, namely, the operations of body and of brute 
unintelligent matter; and try whether they can there form any idea 
of causation and necessity, except that of a constant conjunction of 
objects, and subsequent inference of the mind from one to another. 
If these circumstances form, in reality, the whole of that necessity, 
which we conceive in matter, and if these circumstances be also 
universally acknowledged to take place in the operations of the mind, 
the dispute is at an end; at least, must be owned to be thenceforth 
merely verbal. But as long as we will rashly suppose, that we have 
some farther idea of necessity and causation in the operations of 
external objects; at the same time, that we can find nothing farther 
in the voluntary actions of the mind; there is no possibility of bring- 
ing the question to any determinate issue, while we proceed upon 
so erroneous a supposition. The only method of undeceiving us is 
to mount up higher; to examine the narrow extent of science when 
applied to material causes; and to convince ourselves that all we 
know of them is the constant conjunction and inference above men- 
tioned. We may, perhaps, find that it is with difficulty we are in- 
duced to fix such narrow limits to human understanding: but we 
can afterwards find no difficulty when we come to apply this doc- 
trine to the actions of the will. For as it is evident that these have a 
regular conjunction with motives and circumstances and characters, 
and as we always draw inferences from one to the other, we must 
be obliged to acknowledge in words that necessity, which we have 
already avowed, in every deliberation of our lives, and in every step 
of our conduct and behaviour. 1 

1 The prevalence of the doctrine of liberty may be accounted for, from another 
cause, viz. a false sensation or seeming experience which we have, or may have, 
of liberty or indifference, in many of our actions. The necessity of any action, whether 
of matter or of mind, is not, properly speaking, a quality in the agent, but in any 
thinking or intelligent being, who may consider the action; and it consists chiefly 
in the determination of his thoughts to infer the existence of that action from some 
preceding objects; as liberty, when opposed to necessity, is nothing but the want 
of that determination, and a certain looseness or indifference, which we feel, in 
passing, or not passing, from the idea of one object to that of any succeeding one. 
Now we may observe, that, though, in reflecting on human actions, we seldom feel 
such a looseness, or indifference, but are commonly able to infer them with consider- 
able certainty from their motives, and from the dispositions of the agent; yet it fre- 
quently happens, that, in performing the actions themselves, we are sensible of some- 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 363 

But to proceed in this reconciling project with regard to the ques- 
tion of liberty and necessity; the most contentious question of meta- 
physics, the most contentious science; it will not require many words 
to prove, that all mankind have ever agreed in the doctrine of liberty 
as well as in that of necessity, and that the whole dispute, in this 
respect also, has been hitherto merely verbal. For what is meant by 
liberty, when applied to voluntary actions? We cannot surely mean 
that actions have so little connexion with motives, inclinations and 
circumstances, that one does not follow with a certain degree of uni- 
formity from the other, and that one affords no inference by which 
we can conclude the existence of the other. For these are plain and 
acknowledged matters of fact. By liberty, then, we can only mean 
a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of 
the will; this is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose 
to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally 
allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains. 
Here, then, is no subject of dispute. 

Whatever definition we may give of liberty, we should be careful 
to observe two requisite circumstances; First, that it be consistent 
with plain matter of fact; secondly, that it be consistent with itself. 
If we observe these circumstances, and render our definition intel- 
ligible, I am persuaded that all mankind will be found of one opinion 
with regard to it. 

It is universally allowed that nothing exists without a cause of its 
existence, and that chance, when strictly examined, is a mere negative 
word, and means not any real power which has anywhere a being in 

thing like it: And as all resembling objects are readily taken for each other, this 
has been employed as a demonstrative and even intuitive proof of human liberty. 
We feel, that our actions are subject to our will, on most occasions; and imagine we 
feel, that the will itself is subject to nothing, because, when by a denial of it we 
are provoked to try, we feel, that it moves easily every way, and produces an image 
of itself (or a Velle'ity, as it is called in the schools) even on that side, on which 
it did not settle. This image, or fault motion, we persuade ourselves, could, at that 
time, have been compleated into the thing itself; because, should that be denied, we 
find, upon a second trial, that, at present, it can. We consider not, that the fan- 
tastical desire of shewing liberty, is here the motive of our actions. And it seems 
certain, that, however we may imagine we feel a liberty within ourselves, a spec- 
tator can commonly infer our actions from our motives and character; and even 
where he cannot, he concludes in general, that he might, were he perfectly acquainted 
with every circumstance of our situation and temper, and the most secret springs of 
our complexion and disposition. Now this is the very essence of necessity, according 
to the foregoing doctrine. 



364 DAVID HUME 

nature. But it is pretended that some causes are necessary, some not 
necessary. Here then is the advantage of definitions. Let any one 
define a cause, without comprehending, as a part of the definition, a 
necessary connexion with its effect; and let him show distinctly the 
origin of the idea, expressed by the definition; and I shall readily 
give up the whole controversy. But if the foregoing explication of the 
matter be received, this must be absolutely impracticable. Had not 
objects a regular conjunction with each other, we should never have 
entertained any notion of cause and effect; and this regular conjunc- 
tion produces that inference of the understanding, which is the only 
connexion, that we can have any comprehension of. Whoever at- 
tempts a definition of cause, exclusive of these circumstances, will 
be obliged either to employ unintelligible terms or such as are 
synonymous to the term which he endeavours to define. 2 And if the 
definition above mentioned be admitted; liberty, when opposed to 
necessity, not to constraint, is the same thing with chance; which is 
universally allowed to have no existence. 

PART II 

THERE is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none 
more blameable, than, in philosophical disputes, to endeavour the 
refutation of any hypothesis, by a pretence of its dangerous conse- 
quences to religion and morality. When any opinion leads to ab- 
surdities, it is certainly false; but it is not certain that an opinion is 
false, because it is of dangerous consequence. Such topics, therefore, 
ought entirely to be forborne; as serving nothing to the discovery of 
truth, but only to make the person of an antagonist odious. This I 
observe in general, without pretending to draw any advantage from 
it. I frankly submit to an examination of this kind, and shall venture 
to affirm that the doctrines, both of necessity and of liberty, as above 
explained, are not only consistent with morality, but are absolutely 
essential to its support. 

2 Thus, if a cause be defined, that which produces any thing, it is easy to observe, 
that producing is synonymous to causing. In like manner, if a cause be defined, 
that by which any thing exists, this is liable to the same objection. For what is meant 
by these words, by which? Had it been said, that a cause is that after which any thing 
constantly exists; we should have understood the terms. For this is, indeed, all 
we know of the matter. And this constantly forms the very essence of necessity, 
nor have we any other idea of it. 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 365 

Necessity may be defined two ways, conformably to the two defini- 
tions of cause, of which it makes an essential part. It consists either 
in the constant conjunction of like objects, or in the inference of the 
understanding from one object to another. Now necessity, in both 
these senses, (which, indeed, are at bottom the same) has universally, 
though tacitly, in the schools, in the pulpit, and in common life, 
been allowed to belong to the will of man; and no one has ever 
pretended to deny that we can draw inferences concerning human 
actions, and that those inferences are founded on the experienced 
union of like actions, with like motives, inclinations, and circum- 
stances. The only particular in which any one can differ, is, that 
either, perhaps, he will refuse to give the name of necessity to this 
property of human actions : but as long as the meaning is understood, 
I hope the word can do no harm : or that he will maintain it possible 
to discover something farther in the operations of matter. But this, 
it must be acknowledged, can be of no consequence to morality or 
religion, whatever it may be to natural philosophy or metaphysics. 
We may here be mistaken in asserting that there is no idea of any 
other necessity or connexion in the actions of body: But surely we 
ascribe nothing to the actions of the mind, but what everyone does, 
and must readily allow of. We change no circumstance in the re- 
ceived orthodox system with regard to the will, but only in that with 
regard to material objects and causes. Nothing, therefore, can be 
more innocent, at least, than this doctrine. 

All laws being founded on rewards and punishments, it is sup- 
posed as a fundamental principle, that these motives have a regular 
and uniform influence on the mind, and both produce the good and 
prevent the evil actions. We may give to this influence what name 
we please; but, as it is usually conjoined with the action, it must be 
esteemed a cause, and be looked upon as an instance of that necessity, 
which we would here establish. 

The only proper object of hatred or vengeance is a person or crea- 
ture, endowed with thought and consciousness; and when any crim- 
inal or injurious actions excite that passion, it is only by their rela- 
tion to the person, or connexion with him. Actions are, by their very 
nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from 
some cause in the character and disposition of the person who per- 



366 DAVID HUME 

formed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good; nor 
infamy, if evil. The actions themselves may be blameable; they may 
be contrary to all the rules of morality and religion: but the person is 
not answerable for them; and as they proceeded from nothing in him 
that is durable and constant, and leave nothing of that nature behind 
them, it is impossible he can, upon their account, become the object 
of punishment or vengeance. According to the principle, therefore, 
which denies necessity, and consequently causes, a man is as pure 
and untainted, after having committed the most horrid crime, as at 
the first moment of his birth, nor is his character anywise concerned 
in his actions, since they are not derived from it, and the wickedness 
of the one can never be used as a proof of the depravity of the other. 

Men are not blamed for such actions as they perform ignorantly 
and casually, whatever may be the consequences. Why ? but because 
the principles of these actions are only momentary, and terminate in 
them alone. Men are less blamed for such actions as they perform 
hastily and unpremeditatedly than for such as proceed from deliber- 
ation. For what reason? but because a hasty temper, though a con- 
stant cause or principle in the mind, operates only by intervals, and 
infects not the whole character. Again, repentance wipes off every 
crime, if attended with a reformation of life and manners. How is 
this to be accounted for? but by asserting that actions render a per- 
son criminal merely as they are proofs of criminal principles in the 
mind; and when, by an alteration of these principles, they cease to be 
just proofs, they likewise cease to be criminal. But, except upon the 
doctrine of necessity, they never were just proofs, and consequently 
never were criminal. 

It will be equally easy to prove, and from the same arguments, 
that liberty, according to that definition above mentioned, in which 
all men agree, is also essential to morality, and that no human ac- 
tions, where it is wanting, are susceptible of any moral qualities, or 
can be the objects either of approbation or dislike. For as actions are 
objects of our moral sentiment, so far only as they are indications 
of the internal character, passions, and affections; it is impossible 
that they can give rise either to praise or blame, where they proceed 
not from these principles, but are derived altogether from external 
violence. 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 367 

I pretend not to have obviated or removed all objections to this 
theory, with regard to necessity and liberty. I can foresee other objec- 
tions, derived from topics which have not here been treated of. It 
may be said, for instance, that, if voluntary actions be subjected to 
the same laws of necessity with the operations of matter, there is a 
continued chain of necessary causes, pre-ordained and pre-deter- 
mined, reaching from the original cause of all to every single volition 
of every human creature. No contingency anywhere in the universe; 
no indifference; no liberty. While we act, we are, at the same time, 
acted upon. The ultimate Author of all our volitions is the Creator 
of the world, who first bestowed motion on this immense machine, 
and placed all beings in that particular position, whence every subse- 
quent event, by an inevitable necessity, must result. Human actions, 
therefore, either can have no moral turpitude at all, as proceeding 
from so good a cause; or if they have any turpitude, they must in- 
volve our Creator in the same guilt, while he is acknowledged to be 
their ultimate cause and author. For as a man, who fired a mine, 
is answerable for all the consequences whether the train he employed 
be long or short; so wherever a continued chain of necessary causes 
is fixed, that Being, either finite or infinite, who produces the first, 
is likewise the author of all the rest, and must both bear the blame 
and acquire the praise which belong to them. Our clear and un- 
alterable ideas of morality establish this rule, upon unquestionable 
reasons, when we examine the consequences of any human action; 
and these reasons must still have greater force when applied to the 
volitions and intentions of a Being infinitely wise and powerful. Ig- 
norance or impotence may be pleaded for so limited a creature as 
man; but those imperfections have no place in our Creator. He fore- 
saw, he ordained, he intended all those actions of men, which we so 
rashly pronounce criminal. And we must therefore conclude, either 
that they are not criminal, or that the Deity, not man, is accountable 
for them. But as either of these positions is absurd and impious, it 
follows, that the doctrine from which they are deduced cannot pos- 
sibly be true, as being liable to all the same objections. An absurd 
consequence, if necessary, proves the original doctrine to be absurd; 
in the same manner as criminal actions render criminal the original 
cause, if the connexion between them be necessary and inevitable. 



368 DAVID HUME 

This objection consists of two parts, which we shall examine sep- 
arately; First, that, if human actions can be traced up, by a necessary 
chain, to the Deity, they can never be criminal; on account of the 
infinite perfection of that Being from whom they are derived, and 
who can intend nothing but what is altogether good and laudable. 
Or, Secondly, if they be criminal, we must retract the attribute of 
perfection, which we ascribe to the Deity, and must acknowledge 
him to be the ultimate author of guilt and moral turpitude in all his 
creatures. 

The answer to the first objection seems obvious and convincing. 
There are many philosophers who, after an exact scrutiny of all the 
phenomena of nature, conclude, that the WHOLE, considered as one 
system, is, in every period of its existence, ordered with perfect 
benevolence; and that the utmost possible happiness will, in the end, 
result to all created beings, without any mixture of positive or ab- 
solute ill or misery. Every physical ill, say they, makes an essential 
part of this benevolent system, and could not possibly be removed, 
even by the Deity himself, considered as a wise agent, without giving 
entrance to greater ill, or excluding greater good, which will result 
from it. From this theory, some philosophers, and the ancient Stoics 
among the rest, derived a topic of consolation under all afflictions, 
while they taught their pupils that those ills under which they 
laboured were, in reality, goods to the universe; and that to an en- 
larged view, which could comprehend the whole system of nature, 
every event became an object of joy and exultation. But though this 
topic be specious and sublime, it was soon found in practice weak 
and ineffectual. You would surely more irritate than appease a man 
lying under the racking pains of the gout by preaching up to him 
the rectitude of those general laws, which produced the malignant 
humours in his body, and led them through the proper canals, to 
the sinews and nerves, where they now excite such acute torments. 
These enlarged views may, for a moment, please the imagination of 
a speculative man, who is placed in ease and security; but neither can 
they dwell with constancy on his mind, even though undisturbed 
by the emotions of pain or passion; much less can they maintain their 
ground when attacked by such powerful antagonists. The affections 
take a narrower and more natural survey of their object; and by an 



LIBERTY AND NECESSITY 369 

economy, more suitable to the infirmity of human minds, regard 
alone the beings around us, and are actuated by such events as appear 
good or ill to the private system. 

The case is the same with moral as with physical ill. It cannot 
reasonably be supposed, that those remote considerations, which are 
found of so little efficacy with regard to one, will have a more 
powerful influence with regard to the other. The mind of man is so 
formed by nature that, upon the appearance of certain characters, dis- 
positions, and actions, it immediately feels the sentiment of appro- 
bation or blame; nor are there any emotions more essential to its 
frame and constitution. The characters which engage our approba- 
tion are chiefly such as contribute to the peace and security of human 
society; as the characters which excite blame are chiefly such as tend 
to public detriment and disturbance: whence it may reasonably be 
presumed, that the moral sentiments arise, either mediately or im- 
mediately, from a reflection of these opposite interests. What though 
philosophical meditations establish a different opinion or conjecture; 
that everything is right with regard to the WHOLE, and that the quali- 
ties, which disturb society, are, in the main, as beneficial, and are as 
suitable to the primary intention of nature as those which more 
directly promote its happiness and welfare? Are such remote and 
uncertain speculations able to counterbalance the sentiments which 
arise from the natural and immediate view of the objects? A man 
who is robbed of a considerable sum; does he find his vexation for 
the loss anywise diminished by these sublime reflections ? Why then 
should his moral resentment against the crime be supposed incom- 
patible with them? Or why should not the acknowledgment of a 
real distinction between vice and virtue be reconcileable to all specu- 
lative systems of philosophy, as well as that of a real distinction be- 
tween personal beauty and deformity? Both these distinctions are 
founded in the natural sentiments of the human mind: And these 
sentiments are not to be controuled or altered by any philosophical 
theory or speculation whatsoever. 

The second objection admits not of so easy and satisfactory an 
answer; nor is it possible to explain distinctly, how the Deity can be 
the mediate cause of all the actions of men, without being the author 
of sin and moral turpitude, These are mysteries, which mere natural 



37O DAVID HUME 

and unassisted reason is very unfit to handle; and whatever system 
she embraces, she must find herself involved in inextricable diffi- 
culties, and even contradictions, at every step which she takes with 
regard to such subjects. To reconcile the indifference and con- 
tingency of human actions with prescience; or to defend absolute 
decrees, and yet free the Deity from being the author of sin, has been 
found hitherto to exceed all the power of philosophy. Happy, if she 
be thence sensible of her temerity, when she pries into these sublime 
mysteries; and leaving a scene so full of obscurities and perplexities, 
return, with suitable modesty, to her true and proper province, the 
examination of common life; where she will find difficulties enough 
to employ her enquiries, without launching into so boundless an 
ocean of doubt, uncertainty, and contradiction! 



SECTION IX 

OF THE REASON OF ANIMALS 

A, our reasonings concerning matter of fact are founded on 
a species of Analogy, which leads us to expect from any 
cause the same events, which we have observed to result 
from similar causes. Where the causes are entirely similar, the anal- 
ogy is perfect, and the inference, drawn from it, is regarded as cer- 
tain and conclusive : nor does any man ever entertain a doubt, where 
he sees a piece of iron, that it will have weight and cohesion of parts; 
as in all other instances, which have ever fallen under his observa- 
tion. But where the objects have not so exact a similarity, the analogy 
is less perfect, and the inference is less conclusive; though still it has 
some force, in proportion to the degree of similarity and resemblance. 
The anatomical observations, formed upon one animal, are, by this 
species of reasoning, extended to all animals; and it is certain, that 
when the circulation of the blood, for instance, is clearly proved to 
have place in one creature, as a frog, or fish, it forms a strong pre- 
sumption, that the same principle has place in all. These analogical 
observations may be carried farther, even to this science, of which we 
are now treating; and any theory, by which we explain the operations 
of the understanding, or the origin and connexion of the passions in 
man, will acquire additional authority, if we find, that the same 
theory is requisite to explain the same phenomena in all other ani- 
mals. We shall make trial of this, with regard to the hypothesis, by 
which we have, in the foregoing discourse, endeavoured to account 
for all experimental reasonings; and it is hoped, that this new point 
of view will serve to confirm all our former observations. 

First, It seems evident, that animals as well as men learn many 
things from experience, and infer, that the same events will always 
follow from the same causes. By this principle they become ac- 
quainted with the more obvious properties of external objects, and 
gradually, from their birth, tieasure up a knowledge of the nature 

371 



372 DAVID HUME 

of fire, water, earth, stones, heights, depths, &c., and of the effects 
which result from their operation. The ignorance and inexperience 
of the young are here plainly distinguishable from the cunning and 
sagacity of the old, who have learned, by long observation, to avoid 
what hurt them, and to pursue what gave ease or pleasure. A horse, 
that has been accustomed to the field, becomes acquainted with the 
proper height which he can leap, and will never attempt what ex- 
ceeds his force and ability. An old greyhound will trust the more 
fatiguing part of the chace to the younger, and will place himself 
so as to meet the hare in her doubles; nor are the conjectures, which 
he forms on this occasion, founded in any thing but his observation 
and experience. 

This is still more evident from the effects of discipline and educa- 
tion on animals, who, by the proper application of rewards and pun- 
ishments, may be taught any course of action, and most contrary to 
their natural instincts and propensities. Is it not experience, which 
renders a dog apprehensive of pain, when you menace him, or lift 
up the whip to beat him? Is it not even experience, which makes 
him answer to his name, and infer, from such an arbitrary sound, 
that you mean him rather than any of his fellows, and intend to call 
him, when you pronounce it in a certain manner, and with a certain 
tone and accent ? 

In all these cases, we may observe, that the animal infers some fact 
beyond what immediately strikes his senses; and that this inference 
is altogether founded on past experience, while the creature expects 
from the present object the same consequences, which it has always 
found in its observation to result from similar objects. 

Secondly, It is impossible, that this inference of the animal can be 
founded on any process of argument or reasoning, by which he con- 
cludes, that like events must follow like objects, and that the course 
of nature will always be regular in its operations. For if there be in 
reality any arguments of this nature, they surely lie too abstruse for 
the observation of such imperfect understandings; since it may well 
employ the utmost care and attention of a philosophic genius to 
discover and observe them. Animals, therefore are not guided in 
these inferences by reasoning: neither are children; neither are the 
generality of mankind, in their ordinary actions and conclusions: 



THE REASON OF ANIMALS 373 

neither are philosophers themselves, who, in all the active parts of 
life, are, in the main, the same with the vulgar, and are governed by 
the same maxims. Nature must have provided some other principle, 
of more ready, and more general use and application; nor can an 
operation of such immense consequence in life, as that of inferring 
effects from causes, be trusted to the uncertain process of reasoning 
and argumentation. Were this doubtful with regard to men, it seems 
to admit of no question with regard to the brute creation; and the 
conclusion being once firmly established in the one, we have a strong 
presumption, from all the rules of analogy, that it ought to be uni- 
versally admitted, without any exception or reserve. It is custom 
alone, which engages animals, from every object, that strikes their 
senses, to infer its usual attendant, and carries their imagination, 
from the appearance of the one, to conceive the other, in that par- 
ticular manner, which we denominate belief. No other explication 
can be given of this operation, in all the higher, as well as lower 
classes of sensitive beings, which fall under our notice and observa- 
tion. 1 

1 Since all reasoning concerning facts or causes is derived merely from custom, 
it may be asked how it happens, that men so much surpass animals in reasoning, and 
one man so much surpasses another? Has not the same custom the same influence 
on all? 

We shall here endeavour briefly to explain the great difference in human under- 
standings: After which the reason of the difference between men and animals will 
easily be comprehended. 

1. When we have lived any time, and have been accustomed to the uniformity 
of nature, we acquire a general habit, by which we always transfer the known to the 
unknown, and conceive the latter to resemble the former. By means of this general 
habitual principle, we regard even one experiment as the foundation of reasoning, and 
expect a similar event with some degree of certainty, where the experiment has been 
made accurately, and free from all foreign circumstances. It is therefore considered as 
a matter of great importance to observe the consequences of things; and as one 
man may very much surpass another in attention and memory and observation, this 
will make a very great difference in their reasoning. 

2. Where there is a complication of causes to produce any effect, one mind may 
be much larger than another, and better able to comprehend the whole system of 
objects, and to infer justly their consequences. 

3. One man is able to carry on a chain of consequences to a greater length than 
another. 

4. Few men can think long without running into a confusion of ideas, and mis- 
taking one for another; and there are various degrees of this infirmity. 

5. The circumstance, on which the effect depends, is frequently involved in other 
circumstances, which are foreign and extrinsic. The separation of it often requires 
great attention, accuracy, and subtility. 

6. The forming of general maxims from particular observation is a very nice 
operation; and nothing is more usual, from haste or a narrowness of mind, which 
sees not on all sides, than to commit mistakes in this particular. 



374 DAVID HUME 

But though animals learn many parts of their knowledge from 
observation, there are also many parts of it, which they derive from 
the original hand of nature; which much exceed the share of capacity 
they possess on ordinary occasions; and in which they improve, little 
or nothing, by the longest practice and experience. These we de- 
nominate Instincts, and are so apt to admire as something very ex- 
traordinary, and inexplicable by all the disquisitions of human un- 
derstanding. But our wonder will, perhaps, cease or diminish, when 
we consider, that the experimental reasoning itself, which we possess 
in common with beasts, and on which the whole conduct of life 
depends, is nothing but a species of instinct or mechanical power, 
that acts in us unknown to ourselves; and in its chief operations, is 
not directed by any such relations or comparisons of ideas, as are the 
proper objects of our intellectual faculties. Though the instinct be 
different, yet still it is an instinct, which teaches a man to avoid the 
fire; as much as that, which teaches a bird, with such exactness, the 
art of incubation, and the whole economy and order of its nursery. 

7. When we reason from analogies, the man, who has the greater experience or the 
greater promptitude of suggesting analogies, will be the better reasoner. 

8. Biases from prejudice, education, passion, party, &c. hang more upon one mind 
than another. 

9. After we have acquired a confidence in human testimony, books and conversa- 
tion enlarge much more the sphere of one man's experience and thought than those 
of another. 

It would be easy to discover many other circumstances that make a difference in 
the understandings of men. 



SECTION X 

OF MIRACLES 

PART I 

THERE is, in Dr. Tillotson's writings, an argument against 
the real presence, which is as concise, and elegant, and strong 
as any argument can possibly be supposed against a doc- 
trine, so little worthy of a serious refutation. It is acknowledged on 
all hands, says that learned prelate, that the authority, either of the 
scripture or of tradition, is founded merely in the testimony of the 
Apostles, who were eye-witnesses to those miracles of our Saviour, by 
which he proved his divine mission. Our evidence, then, for, the 
truth of the Christian religion is less than the evidence for the truth 
of our senses; because, even in the first authors of our religion, it was 
no greater; and it is evident it must diminish in passing from them 
to their disciples; nor can any one rest such confidence in their testi- 
mony, as in the immediate object of his senses. But a weaker evi- 
dence can never destroy a stronger; and therefore, were the doctrine 
of the real presence ever so clearly revealed in scripture, it were 
directly contrary to the rules of just reasoning to give our assent to 
it. It contradicts sense, though both the scripture and tradition, on 
which it is supposed to be built, carry not such evidence with them 
as sense; when they are considered merely as external evidences, and 
are not brought home to every one's breast, by the immediate opera- 
tion of the Holy Spirit. 

Nothing is so convenient as a decisive argument of this kind, 
which must at least silence the most arrogant bigotry and supersti- 
tion, and free us from their impertinent solicitations. I flatter myself, 
that I have discovered an argument of a like nature, which, if just, 
will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds 
of superstitious delusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as 
the world endures. For so long, I presume, will the accounts of 
miracles and prodigies be found in all history, sacred and profane. 
Though experience be our only guide in reasoning concerning 

375 



376 DAVID HUME 

matters of fact; it must be acknowledged, that this guide is not alto- 
gether infallible, but in some cases is apt to lead us into errors. One, 
who in our climate, should expect better weather in any week of 
June than in one of December, would reason justly, and conform- 
ably to experience; but it is certain, that he may happen, in the event, 
to find himself mistaken. However, we may observe, that, in such a 
case, he would have no cause to complain of experience; because it 
commonly informs us beforehand of the uncertainty, by that con- 
trariety of events, which we may learn from a diligent observation. 
All effects follow not with like certainty from their supposed causes. 
Some events are found, in all countries and all ages, to have been 
constantly conjoined together: Others are found to have been more 
variable, and sometimes to disappoint our expectations; so that, in 
our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable 
degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species 
of moral evidence. 

A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. In 
such conclusions as are founded on an infallible experience, he ex- 
pects the event with the last degree of assurance, and regards his 
past experience as a full proof of the future existence of that event. 
In other cases, he proceeds with more caution: he weighs the oppo- 
site experiments: he considers which side is supported by the greater 
number of experiments: to that side he inclines, with doubt and 
hesitation; and when at last he fixes his judgement, the evidence ex- 
ceeds not what we properly call probability. All probability, then, 
supposes an opposition of experiments and observations, where the 
one side is found to overbalance the other, and to produce a degree 
of evidence, proportioned to the superiority. A hundred instances 
or experiments on one side, and fifty on another, afford a doubtful 
expectation of any event; though a hundred uniform experiments, 
with only one that is contradictory, reasonably beget a pretty strong 
degree of assurance. In all cases, we must balance the opposite experi- 
ments, where they are opposite, and deduct the smaller number 
from the greater, in order to know the exact force of the superior 
evidence. 

To apply these principles to a particular instance; we may observe, 
that there is no species of reasoning more common, more useful, and 



MIRACLES 377 

even necessary to human life, than that which is derived from the 
testimony of men, and the reports of eye-witnesses and spectators. 
This species of reasoning, perhaps, one may deny to be founded on 
the relation of cause and effect. I shall not dispute about a word. It 
will be sufficient to observe that our assurance in any argument of 
this kind is derived from no other principle than our observation of 
the veracity of human testimony, and of the usual conformity of facts 
to the reports of witnesses. It being a general maxim, that no objects 
have any discoverable connexion together, and that all the inferences, 
which we can draw from one to another, are founded merely on our 
experience of their constant and regular conjunction; it is evident, 
that we ought not to make an exception to this maxim in favour 
of human testimony, whose connexion with any event seems, in 
itself, as little necessary as any other. Were not the memory tena- 
cious to a certain degree; had not men commonly an inclination to 
truth and a principle of probity; were they not sensible to shame, 
when detected in a falsehood: were not these, I say, discovered by 
experience to be qualities, inherent in human nature, we should 
never repose the least confidence in human testimony. A man de- 
lirious, or noted for falsehood and villainy, has no manner of author- 
ity with us. 

And as the evidence, derived from witnesses and human testi- 
mony, is founded on past experience, so it varies with the experience, 
and is regarded either as a proof or a probability, according as the 
conjunction between any particular kind of report and any kind of 
object has been found to be constant or variable. There are a num- 
ber of circumstances to be taken into consideration in all judgements 
of this kind; and the ultimate standard, by which we determine all 
disputes, that may arise concerning them, is always derived from ex- 
perience and observation. Where this experience is not entirely 
uniform on any side, it is attended with an unavoidable contrariety 
in our judgements, and with the same opposition and mutual destruc- 
tion of argument as in every other kind of evidence. We frequently 
hesitate concerning the reports of others. We balance the opposite 
circumstances, which cause any doubt or uncertainty; and when we 
discover a superiority on any side, we incline to it; but still with a 
diminution of assurance, in proportion to the force of its antagonist. 



378 DAVID HUME 

This contrariety of evidence, in the present case, may be derived 
from several different causes; from the opposition of contrary testi- 
mony; from the character or number of the witnesses; from the man- 
ner of their delivering their testimony; or from the union of all these 
circumstances. We entertain a suspicion concerning any matter of 
fact, when the witnesses contradict each other; when they are but 
few, or of a doubtful character; when they have an interest in what 
they affirm; when they deliver their testimony with hesitation, or on 
the contrary, with too violent asseverations. There are many other 
particulars of the same kind, which may diminish or destroy the 
force of any argument, derived from human testimony. 

Suppose, for instance, that the fact, which the testimony endeavours 
to establish, partakes of the extraordinary and the marvellous; in 
that case, the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a 
diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less 
unusual. The reason why we place any credit in witnesses and his- 
torians, is not derived from any connexion, which we perceive a 
priori, between testimony and reality, but because we are accustomed 
to find a conformity between them. But when the fact attested is 
such a one as has seldom fallen under our observation, here is a con- 
test of two opposite experiences; of which the one destroys the other, 
as far as its force goes, and the superior can only operate on the mind 
by the force, which remains. The very same principle of experience, 
which gives us a certain degree of assurance in the testimony of wit- 
nesses, gives us also, in this case, another degree of assurance against 
the fact, which they endeavour to establish; from which contradiction 
there necessarily arises a counterpoize, and mutual destruction of 
belief and authority. 

/ should not believe such a story were it told me by Cato, was a 
proverbial saying in Rome, even during the lifetime of that phil- 
osophical patriot. 1 The incredibility of a fact, it was allowed, might 
invalidate so great an authority. 

The Indian prince, who refused to believe the first relations con- 
cerning the effects of frost, reasoned justly; and it naturally required 
very strong testimony to engage his assent to facts, that arose from a 
state of nature, with which he was unacquainted, and which bore 
1 Plutarch, in vita Catonis. 



MIRACLES' 379 

so little analogy to those events, of which he had had constant and 
uniform experience. Though they were not contrary to his expe- 
rience, they were not conformable to it. 2 

But in order to encrease the probability against the testimony of 
witnesses, let us suppose, that the fact, which they affirm, instead of 
being only marvellous, is really miraculous; and suppose also, that 
the testimony considered apart and in itself, amounts to an entire 
proof; in that case, there is proof against proof, of which the strongest 
must prevail, but still with a diminution of its force, in proportion 
to that of its antagonist. 

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and 
unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against 
a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argu- 
ment from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than 
probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain 
suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished 
by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the 
laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in 
other words, a miracle to prevent them ? Nothing is esteemed a mir- 
acle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no mir- 
acle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden : 
because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, 
has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a 
dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed 
in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform expe- 

2 No Indian, it is evident, could have experience that water did not freeze in 
cold climates. This is placing nature in a situation quite unknown to him; and it is 
impossible for him to tell a priori what will result from it. It is making a new 
experiment, the consequence of which is always uncertain. One may sometimes 
conjecture from analogy what will follow; but still this is but conjecture. And it must 
be confessed, that, in the present case of freezing, the event follows contrary to the 
rules of analogy, and is such as a rational Indian would not look for. The operations 
of cold upon water are not gradual, according to the degrees of cold; but whenever 
it comes to the freezing point, the water passes in a moment, from the utmost liquidity 
to perfect hardness. Such an event, therefore, may be denominated extraordinary, 
and requires a pretty strong testimony, to render it credible to people in a warm 
climate: But still it is not miraculous, nor contrary to uniform experience of the 
course of nature in cases where all the circumstances are the same. The inhabitants 
of Sumatra have always seen water fluid in their own climate, and the freezing of 
their rivers ought to be deemed a prodigy: But they never saw water in Muscovy 
during the winter; and therefore they cannot reasonably be positive what would there 
be the consequence. 



380 DAVID HUME 

rience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not 
merit that appellation. And as a uniform experience amounts to a 
proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the 
fact, against the existence of any miracle; nor can such a proof be 
destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, 
which is superior. 3 

The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of 
our attention), 'that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, 
unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be 
more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish; and 
even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and 
the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of 
force, which remains, after deducting the inferior/ When anyone 
tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately con- 
sider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person 
should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he re- 
lates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against 
the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pro- 
nounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the 
falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the 
event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to com- 
mand my belief or opinion. 

PART II 

IN the foregoing reasoning we have supposed, that the testimony, 
upon which a miracle is founded, may possibly amount to an entire 

3 Sometimes an event may not, in itself, seem to be contrary to the laws of nature, 
and yet, if it were real, it might, by reason of some circumstances, be denominated a 
miracle; because, in fact, it is contrary to these laws. Thus if a person, claiming a 
divine authority, should command a sick person to be well, a healthful man to fall 
down dead, the clouds to pour rain, the winds to blow, in short, should order many 
natural events, which immediately follow upon his command; these might justly be 
esteemed miracles, because they are really, in this case, contrary to the laws of nature. 
For if any suspicion remain, that the event and command concurred by accident there 
is no miracle, and no transgression of the laws of nature. If this suspicion be removed, 
there is evidently a miracle, and a transgression of these laws; because nothing can 
be more contrary to nature than that the voice or command of a man should have such 
an influence. A miracle may be accurately defined, a transgression of a law of nature 
by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent. 
A miracle may either be discoverable by men or not. This alters not its nature and 
essence. The raising of a house or ship into the air is a visible miracle. The raising 
of a feather, when the wind wants ever so little of a force requisite for that purpose, 
is as real a miracle, though not so sensible with regard to us. 



MIRACLES 381 

proof, and that the falsehood of that testimony would be a real 
prodigy: but it is easy to shew, that we have been a great deal too 
liberal in our concession, and that there never was a miraculous 
event established on so full an evidence. 

For first, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle at- 
tested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good- 
sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion 
in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond 
all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and repu- 
tation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case 
of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attest- 
ing facts performed in such a public manner and in so celebrated a 
part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable: all which 
circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony 
of men. 

Secondly. We may observe in human nature a principle which, 
if strictly examined, will be found to diminish extremely the assur- 
ance, which we might, from human testimony, have in any kind of 
prodigy. The maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves 
in our reasonings, is, that the objects, of which we have no expe- 
rience, resembles those, of which we have; that what we have found 
to be most usual is always most probable; and that where there is an 
opposition of arguments, we ought to give the preference to such as 
are founded on the greatest number of past observations. But 
though, in proceeding by this rule, we readily reject any fact which 
is unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree; yet in advancing 
farther, the mind observes not always the same rule; but when any- 
thing is affirmed utterly absurd and miraculous, it rather the more 
readily admits of such a fact, upon account of that very circumstance, 
which ought to destroy all its authority. The passion of surprise and 
wonder, arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, gives a 
sensible tendency towards the belief of those events, from which it is 
derived. And this goes so far, that even those who cannot enjoy this 
pleasure immediately, nor can believe those miraculous events, of 
which they are informed, yet love to partake of the satisfaction at 
second-hand or by rebound, and place a pride and delight in exciting 
the admiration of others. 



382 DAVID HUME 

With what greediness are the miraculous accounts of travellers 
received, their descriptions of sea and land monsters, their relations 
of wonderful adventures, strange men, and uncouth manners? But 
if the spirit of religion join itself to the love of wonder, there is an 
end of common sense; and human testimony, in these circumstances, 
loses all pretensions to authority. A religionist may be an enthusiast, 
and imagine he sees what has no reality : he may know his narrative 
to be false, and yet persevere in it, with the best intentions in the 
world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause : or even where this 
delusion has not place, vanity, excited by so strong a temptation, 
operates on him more powerfully than on the rest of mankind in any 
other circumstances; and self-interest with equal force. His auditors 
may not have, and commonly have not, sufficient judgement to can- 
vass his evidence: what judgement they have, they renounce by prin- 
ciple, in these sublime and mysterious subjects: or if they were ever 
so willing to employ it, passion and a heated imagination disturb the 
regularity of its operations, their credulity increases his impudence: 
and his impudence overpowers their credulity. 

Eloquence, when at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason 
or reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the fancy or the affec- 
tions, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their understand- 
ing. Happily, this pitch it seldom attains. But what a Tully or a 
Demosthenes could scarcely effect over a Roman or Athenian 
audience, every Capuchin, every itinerant or stationary teacher can 
perform over the generality of mankind, and in a higher degree, by 
touching such gross and vulgar passions. 

The many instances of forged miracles, and prophecies, and super- 
natural events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by con- 
trary evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, prove 
sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary 
and the marvellous, and ought reasonably to beget a suspicion against 
all relations of this kind. This is our natural way of thinking, even 
with regard to the most common and most credible events. For in- 
stance : There is no kind of report which rises so easily, and spreads 
so quickly, especially in country places and provincial towns, as those 
concerning marriages; insomuch that two young persons of equal 
condition never see each other twice, but the whole neighbourhood 



MIRACLES 383 

immediately join them together. The pleasure of telling a piece of 
news so interesting, of propagating it, and of being the first reporters 
of it, spreads the intelligence. And this is so well known, that no man 
of sense gives attention to these reports, till he find them confirmed 
by some greater evidence. Do not the same passions, and others 
still stronger, incline the generality of mankind to believe and re- 
port, with the greatest vehemence and assurance, all religious 
miracles ? 

Thirdly. It forms a strong presumption against all supernatural 
and miraculous relations, that they are observed chiefly to abound 
among ignorant and barbarous nations; or if a civilized people has 
ever given admission to any of them, that people will be found to 
have received them from ignorant and barbarous ancestors, who 
transmitted them with that inviolable sanction and authority, which 
always attend received opinions. When we peruse the first histories 
of all nations, we are apt to imagine ourselves transported into some 
new world; where the whole frame of nature is disjointed, and 
every element performs its operations in a different manner, from 
what it does at present. Battles, revolutions, pestilence, famine and 
death, are never the effect of those natural causes, which we expe- 
rience. Prodigies, omens, oracles, judgements, quite obscure the few 
natural events, that are intermingled with them. But as the former 
grow thinner every page, in proportion as we advance nearer the 
enlightened ages, we soon learn, that there is nothing mysterious or 
supernatural in the case, but that all proceeds from the usual pro- 
pensity of mankind towards the marvellous, and that, though this 
inclination may at intervals receive a check from sense and learning, 
it can never be thoroughly extirpated from human nature. 

It is strange, a judicious reader is apt to say, upon the perusal of 
these wonderful historians, that such prodigious events never hap- 
pen in our days. But it is nothing strange, I hope, that men should 
lie in all ages. You must surely have seen instances enough of that 
frailty. You have yourself heard many such marvellous relations 
started, which, being treated with scorn by all the wise and judicious, 
have at last been abandoned even by the vulgar. Be assured, that 
those renowned lies, which have spread and flourished to such a 
monstrous height, arose from like beginnings; but being sown in 



384 DAVID HUME 

a more proper soil, shot up at last into prodigies almost equal to 
those which they relate. 

It was a wise policy in that false prophet, Alexander, who though 
now forgotten, was once so famous, to lay the first scene of his im- 
postures in Paphlagonia, where, as Lucian tells us, the people were 
extremely ignorant and stupid, and ready to swallow even the 
grossest delusion. People at a distance, who are weak enough to 
think the matter at all worth enquiry, have no opportunity of receiv- 
ing better information. The stories come magnified to them by a hun- 
dred circumstances. Fools are industrious in propagating the impos- 
ture; while the wise and learned are contented, in general, to deride 
its absurdity, without informing themselves of the particular facts, 
by which it may be distinctly refuted. And thus the impostor above 
mentioned was enabled to proceed, from his ignorant Paphlagonians, 
to the enlisting of votaries, even among the Grecian philosophers, and 
men of the most eminent rank and distinction in Rome; nay, could 
engage the attention of that sage emperor Marcus Aurelius; so far 
as to make him trust the success of a military expedition to his 
delusive prophecies. 

The advantages are so great, of starting an imposture among an 
ignorant people, that, even though the delusion should be too gross 
to impose on the generality of them (which, though seldom, is some- 
times the case) it has a much better chance for succeeding in remote 
countries, than if the first scene had been laid in a city renowned for 
arts and knowledge. The most ignorant and barbarous of these bar- 
barians carry the report abroad. None of their countrymen have a 
large correspondence, or sufficient credit and authority to contradict 
and beat down the delusion. Men's inclination to the marvellous has 
full opportunity to display itself. And thus a story, which is univer- 
sally exploded in the place where it was first started, shall pass for 
certain at a thousand miles distance. But had Alexander fixed his 
residence at Athens, the philosophers of that renowned mart of learn- 
ing had immediately spread, throughout the whole Roman empire, 
their sense of the matter; which, being supported by so great au- 
thority, and displayed by all the force of reason and eloquence, had 
entirely opened the eyes of mankind. It is true; Lucian, passing by 
chance through Paphlagonia, had an opportunity of performing this 



MIRACLES 385 

good office. But, though much to be wished, it does not always hap- 
pen, that every Alexander meets with a Lucian, ready to expose and 
detect his impostures. 

I may add as a fourth reason, which diminishes the authority of 
prodigies, that there is no testimony for any, even those which have 
not been expressly detected, that is not opposed by an infinite num- 
ber of witnesses; so that not only the miracle destroys the credit of 
testimony, but the testimony destroys itself. To make this the better 
understood, let us consider, that, in matters of religion, whatever is 
different is contrary; and that it is impossible the religions of ancient 
Rome, of Turkey, of Siam, and of China should, all of them, be 
established on any solid foundation. Every miracle, therefore, pre- 
tended to have been wrought in any of these religions (and all of 
them abound in miracles), as its direct scope is to establish the par- 
ticular system to which it is attributed; so has it the same force, 
though more indirectly, to overthrow every other system. In de- 
stroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those 
miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodi- 
gies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and 
the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite 
to each other. According to this method of reasoning, when we be- 
lieve any miracle of Mahomet or his successors, we have for our 
warrant the testimony of a few barbarous Arabians: and on the other 
hand, we are to regard the authority of Titus Livius, Plutarch, Taci- 
tus, and, in short, of all the authors and witnesses, Grecian, Chinese, 
and Roman Catholic, who have related any miracle in their particu- 
lar religion; I say, we are to regard their testimony in the same 
light as if they had mentioned that Mahometan miracle, and had in 
express terms contradicted it, with the same certainty as they have 
for the miracle they relate. This argument may appear over subtile 
and refined; but is not in reality different from the reasoning of a 
judge, who supposes, that the credit of two witnesses, maintaining a 
crime against any one, is destroyed by the testimony of two others, 
who affirm him to have been two hundred leagues distant, at the 
same instant when the crime is said to have been committed. 

One of the best attested miracles in all profane history, is that 
which Tacitus reports of Vespasian, who cured a blind man in Alex- 



386 DAVID HUME 

andria, by means of his spittle, and a lame man by the mere touch of 
his foot; in obedience to a vision of the god Serapis, who had en- 
joined them to have recourse to the Emperor, for these miraculous 
cures. The story may be seen in that fine historian 4 ; where every 
circumstance seems to add weight to the testimony, and might be 
displayed at large with all the force of argument and eloquence, if 
any one were now concerned to enforce the evidence of that ex- 
ploded and idolatrous superstition. The gravity, solidity, age, and 
probity of so great an emperor, who, through the whole course of his 
life, conversed in a familiar manner with his friends and courtiers, 
and never affected those extraordinary airs of divinity assumed by 
Alexander and Demetrius. The historian, a cotemporary writer, 
noted for candour and veracity, and withal, the greatest and most 
penetrating genius, perhaps, of all antiquity; and so free from any 
tendency to credulity, that he even lies under the contrary imputa- 
tion, of atheism and prof aneness : The persons, from whose authority 
he related the miracle, of established character for judgement and 
veracity, as we may well presume; eye-witnesses of the fact, and con- 
firming their testimony, after the Flavian family was despoiled of 
the empire, and could no longer give any reward, as the price of a 
lie. Utrumque, qui inter juere, nunc quoque memorant, postquam 
nullum mendacio pretium. To which if we add the public nature 
of the facts, as related, it will appear, that no evidence can well be 
supposed stronger for so gross and so palpable a falsehood. 

There is also a memorable story related by Cardinal de Retz, which 
may well deserve our consideration. When that intriguing politician 
fled into Spain, to avoid the persecution of his enemies, he passed 
through Saragossa, the capital of Arragon, where he was shewn, in 
the cathedral, a man, who had served seven years as a doorkeeper, 
and was well known to every body in town, that had ever paid his 
devotions at that church. He had been seen, for so long a time, want- 
ing a leg; but recovered that limb by the rubbing of holy oil upon 
the stump; and the cardinal assures us that he saw him with two 
legs. This miracle was vouched by all the canons of the church; and 
the whole company in town were appealed to for a confirmation of 
the fact; whom the cardinal found, by their zealous devotion, to be 
4 Hist. lib. v. cap. 8. Suetonius gives nearly the same account in vita Vesp. 



MIRACLES 387 

thorough believers of the miracle. Here the relater was also co- 
temporary to the supposed prodigy, of an incredulous and libertine 
character, as well as of great genius; the miracle of so singular a 
nature as could scarcely admit of a counterfeit, and the witnesses 
very numerous, and all of them, in a manner, spectators of the fact, 
to which they gave their testimony. And what adds mightily to the 
force of the evidence, and may double our surprise on this occasion, 
is, that the cardinal himself, who relates the story, seems not to give 
any credit to it, and consequently cannot be suspected of any con- 
currence in the holy fraud. He considered justly, that it was not 
requisite, in order to reject a fact of this nature, to be able accurately 
to disprove the testimony, and to trace its falsehood, through all the 
circumstances of knavery and credulity which produced it. He 
knew, that, as this was commonly altogether impossible at any small 
distance of time and place; so was it extremely difficult, even where 
one was immediately present, by reason of the bigotry, ignorance, 
cunning, and roguery of a great part of mankind. He therefore con- 
cluded, like a just reasoner, that such an evidence carried falsehood 
upon the very face of it, and that a miracle, supported by any human 
testimony, was more properly a subject of derision than of argument. 
There surely never was a greater number of miracles ascribed to 
one person, than those, which were lately said to have been wrought 
in France upon the tomb of Abbe Paris, the famous Jansenist, with 
whose sanctity the people were so long deluded. The curing of the 
sick, giving hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind, were every 
where talked of as the usual effects of that holy sepulchre. But what 
is more extraordinary; many of the miracles were immediately 
proved upon the spot, before judges of unquestioned integrity, at- 
tested by witnesses of credit and distinction, in a learned age, and 
on the most eminent theatre that is now in the world. Nor is this 
all: a relation of them was published and dispersed everywhere; nor 
were the Jesuits, though a learned body supported by the civil magis- 
trate, and determined enemies to those opinions, in whose favour 
the miracles were said to have been wrought, ever able distinctly 
to refute or detect them. 5 Where shall we find such a number of 
circumstances, agreeing to the corroboration of one fact ? And what 
5 By Mons. Montgeron, counsellor or judge of the Parliament of Paris. 



388 DAVID HUME 

have we to oppose to such a cloud of witnesses, but the absolute im- 
possibility or miraculous nature of the events, which they relate? 
And this surely, in the eyes of all reasonable people, will alone be 
regarded as a sufficient refutation. 

Is the consequence just, because some human testimony has the 
utmost force and authority in some cases, when it relates the battle 
of Philippi or Pharsalia for instance; that therefore all kinds of testi- 
mony must, in all cases, have equal force and authority? Suppose 
that the Caesarean and Pompeian factions had, each of them, claimed 
the victory in these battles, and that the historians of each party had 
uniformly ascribed the advantage to their own side; how could 
mankind, at this distance, have been able to determine between 
them? The contrariety is equally strong between the miracles re- 
lated by Herodotus or Plutarch, and those delivered by Mariana, 
Bede, or any monkish historian. 

The wise lend a very academic faith to every report which favours 
the passion of the reporter; whether it magnifies his country, his 
family, or himself, or in any other way strikes in with his natural 
inclinations and propensities. But what greater temptation than to 
appear a missionary, a prophet, an ambassador from heaven? Who 
would not encounter many dangers and difficulties, in order to attain 
so sublime a character? Or if, by the help of vanity and a heated 
imagination, a man has first made a convert of himself, and entered 
seriously into the delusion; who ever scruples to make use of pious 
frauds, in support of so holy and meritorious a cause? 

The smallest spark may here kindle into the greatest flame; be- 
cause the materials are always prepared for it. The avidum genus 
auricularumf the gazing populace, receive greedily, without exami- 
nation, whatever sooths superstition, and promotes wonder. 

How many stories of this nature have, in all ages, been detected 
and exploded in their infancy? How many more have been cele- 
brated for a time, and have afterwards sunk into neglect and ob- 
livion ? Where such reports, therefore, fly about, the solution of the 
phenomenon is obvious; and we judge in conformity to regular ex- 
perience and observation, when we account for it by the known and 
natural principles of credulity and delusion. And shall we, rather 

6 Lucret. 



MIRACLES 389 

than have a recourse to so natural a solution, allow of a miraculous 
violation of the most established laws of nature? 

I need not mention the difficulty of detecting a falsehood in any 
private or even public history, at the place, where it is said to happen; 
much more when the scene is removed to ever so small a distance. 
Even a court of judicature, with all the authority, accuracy, and 
judgement, which they can employ, find themselves often at a loss 
to distinguish between truth and falsehood in the most recent actions. 
But the matter never comes to any issue, if trusted to the common 
method of altercations and debate and flying rumours; especially 
when men's passions have taken part on either side. 

In the infancy of new religions, the wise and learned commonly 
esteem the matter too inconsiderable to deserve their attention or 
regard. And when afterwards they would willingly detect the cheat 
in order to undeceive the deluded multitude, the season is now past, 
and the records and witnesses, which might clear up the matter, 
have perished beyond recovery. 

No means of detection remain, but those which must be drawn 
from the very testimony itself of the reporters: and these, though 
always sufficient with the judicious and knowing, are commonly 
too fine to fall under the comprehension of the vulgar. 

Upon the whole, then, it appears, that no testimony for any kind 
of miracle has ever amounted to a probability, much less to a proof; 
and that, even supposing it amounted to a proof, it would be opposed 
by another proof; derived from the very nature of the fact, which it 
would endeavour to establish. It is experience only, which gives 
authority to human testimony; and it is the same experience, which 
assures us of the laws of nature. When, therefore, these two kinds of 
experience are contrary, we have nothing to do but subtract the one 
from the other, and embrace an opinion, either on one side or the 
other, with that assurance which arises from the remainder. But ac- 
cording to the principle here explained, this subtraction, with regard 
to all popular religions, amounts to an entire annihilation; and 
therefore we may establish it as a maxim, that no human testimony 
can have such force as to prove a miracle, and make it a just founda- 
tion for any such system of religion. 

I beg the limitations here made may be remarked, when I say, 



390 DAVID HUME 

that a miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a 
system of religion. For I own, that otherwise, there may possibly be 
miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as 
to admit of proof from human testimony; though, perhaps, it will be 
impossible to find any such in all the records of history. Thus, sup- 
pose, all authors, in all languages, agree, that, from the first of Janu- 
ary, 1600, there was a total darkness over the whole earth for eight 
days: suppose that the tradition of this extraordinary event is still 
strong and lively among the people: that all travellers, who return 
from foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same tradition, with- 
out the least variation or contradiction : it is evident, that our present 
philosophers, instead of doubting the fact, ought to receive it as cer- 
tain, and ought to search for the causes whence it might be derived. 
The decay, corruption, and dissolution of nature, is an event rendered 
probable by so many analogies, that any phenomenon, which seems 
to have a tendency towards that catastrophe, comes within the reach 
of human testimony, if that testimony be very extensive and uni- 
form. 

But suppose, that all the historians who treat of England, should 
agree, that, on the first of January, 1600, Queen Elizabeth died; that 
both before and after her death she was seen by her physicians and 
the whole court, as is usual with persons of her rank; that her suc- 
cessor was acknowledged and proclaimed by the parliament; and 
that, after being interred a month, she again appeared, resumed the 
throne, and governed England for three years: I must confess that 
I should be surprised at the concurrence of so many odd circum- 
stances, but should not have the least inclination to believe so 
miraculous an event. I should not doubt of her pretended death, 
and of those other public circumstances that followed it: I should 
only assert it to have been pretended, and that it neither was, nor 
possibly could be real. You would in vain object to me the difficulty, 
and almost impossibility of deceiving the world in an affair of such 
consequence; the wisdom and solid judgment of that renowned 
queen; with the little or no advantage which she could reap from so 
poor an artifice: all this might astonish me; but I would still reply, 
that the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena, 
that I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise 



MIRACLES 391 

from their concurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the 
laws of nature. 

But should this miracle be ascribed to any new system of religion; 
men, in all ages, have been so much imposed on by ridiculous stories 
of that kind, that this very circumstance would be a full proof of a 
cheat, and sufficient, with all men of sense, not only to make them 
reject the fact, but even reject it without farther examination. 
Though the Being to whom the miracle is ascribed, be, in this case, 
Almighty, it does not, upon that account, become a whit more 
probable; since it is impossible for us to know the attributes or actions 
of such a Being, otherwise than from the experience which we have 
of his productions, in the usual course of nature. This still reduces us 
to past observation, and obliges us to compare the instances of the 
violation of truth in the testimony of men, with those of the violation 
of the laws of nature by miracles, in order to judge which of them 
is most likely and probable. As the violations of truth are more 
common in the testimony concerning religious miracles, than in that 
concerning any other matter of fact; this must diminish very much 
the authority of the former testimony, and make us form a general 
resolution, never to lend any attention to it, with whatever specious 
pretence it may be covered. 

Lord Bacon seems to have embraced the same principles of rea- 
soning. 'We ought,' says he, 'to make a collection or particular his- 
tory of all monsters and prodigious births or productions, and in a 
word of every thing new, rare, and extraordinary in nature. But this 
must be done with the most severe scrutiny, lest we depart from 
truth. Above all, every relation must be considered as suspicious, 
which depends in any degree upon religion, as the prodigies of Livy : 
and no less so, everything that is to be found in the writers of natural 
magic or alchimy, or such authors, who seem, all of them, to have an 
unconquerable appetite for falsehood and fable. 7 

I am the better pleased with the method of reasoning here deliv- 
ered, as I think it may serve to confound those dangerous friends or 
disguised enemies to the Christian Religion, who have undertaken 
to defend it by the principles of human reason. Our most holy re- 
ligion is founded on Faith, not on reason; and it is a sure method 
of exposing it to put it to such a trial as it is, by no means, fitted to 

7 Nov. Org. lib. ii. aph. 29. 



392 DAVID HUME 

endure. To make this more evident, let us examine those miracles, 
related in scripture; and not to lose ourselves in too wide a field, let 
us confine ourselves to such as we find in the Pentateuch, which we 
shall examine, according to the principles of these pretended Chris- 
tians, not as the word or testimony of God himself, but as the pro- 
duction of a mere human writer and historian. Here then we are first 
to consider a book, presented to us by a barbarous and ignorant 
people, written in an age when they were still more barbarous, and 
in all probability long after the facts which it relates, corroborated 
by no concurring testimony, and resembling those fabulous accounts, 
which every nation gives of its origin. Upon reading this book, we 
find it full of prodigies and miracles. It gives an account of a state 
of the world and of human nature entirely different from the present : 
of our fall from that state: of the age of man, extended to near a 
thousand years: of the destruction of the world by a deluge: of the 
arbitrary choice of one people, as the favourites of heaven; and that 
people the countrymen of the author: of their deliverance from 
bondage by prodigies the most astonishing imaginable: I desire any 
one to lay his hand upon his heart, and after a serious consideration 
declare, whether he thinks that the falsehood of such a book, sup- 
ported by such a testimony, would be more extraordinary and mirac- 
ulous than all the miracles it relates; which is, however, necessary 
to make it be received, according to the measures of probability 
above established. 

What we have said of miracles may be applied, without any varia- 
tion, to prophecies; and indeed, all prophecies are real miracles, and 
as such only, can be admitted as proofs of any revelation. If it did 
not exceed the capacity of human nature to foretell future events, it 
would be absurd to employ any prophecy as an argument for a divine 
mission or authority from heaven. So that, upon the whole, we may 
conclude, that the Christian Religion not only was at first attended 
with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any rea- 
sonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince 
us of its veracity: and whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is 
conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts 
all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination 
to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience. 



SECTION XI 

OF A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE AND OF A FUTURE STATE 

I WAS lately engaged in conversation with a friend who loves 
sceptical paradoxes; where, though he advanced many prin- 
ciples, of which I can by no means approve, yet as they seem to 
be curious, and to bear some relation to the chain of reasoning carried 
on throughout this enquiry, I shall here copy them from my memory 
as accurately as I can, in order to submit them to the judgement 
of the reader. 

Our conversation began with my admiring the singular good for- 
tune of philosophy, which, as it requires entire liberty above all other 
privileges, and chiefly flourishes from the free opposition of senti- 
ments and argumentation, received its first birth in an age and coun- 
try of freedom and toleration, and was never cramped, even in its 
most extravagant principles, by any creeds, concessions, or penal 
statutes. For, except the banishment of Protagoras, and the death 
of Socrates, which last event proceeded partly from other motives, 
there are scarcely any instances to be met with, in ancient history, of 
this bigoted jealousy, with which the present age is so much infested. 
Epicurus lived at Athens to an advanced age, in peace and tran- 
quillity: Epicureans 1 were even admitted to receive the sacerdotal 
character, and to officiate at the altar, in the most sacred rites of the 
established religion : and the public encouragement 2 of pensions and 
salaries was afforded equally, by the wisest of all the Roman em- 
perors, 3 to the professors of every sect of philosophy. How requisite 
such kind of treatment was to philosophy, in her early youth, will 
easily be conceived, if we reflect, that, even at present, when she may 
be supposed more hardy and robust, she bears with much difficulty 
the inclemency of the seasons, and those harsh winds of calumny and 
persecution, which blow upon her. 
You admire, says my friend, as the singular good fortune of 

1 Luciani, av^ir. ij Aairiflai. 2 Luciani, cvvovxos. 3 Luciani and Dio. 

393 



394 DAVID HUME 

philosophy, what seems to result from the natural course of things, 
and to be unavoidable in every age and nation. This pertinacious 
bigotry, of which you complain, as so fatal to philosophy, is really her 
offspring, who, after allying with superstition, separates himself en- 
tirely from the interest of his parent, and becomes her most inveterate 
enemy and persecutor. Speculative dogmas of religion, the present 
occasions of such furious dispute, could not possibly be conceived or 
admitted in the early ages of the world; when mankind, being 
wholly illiterate, formed an idea of religion more suitable to their 
weak apprehension, and composed their sacred tenets of such tales 
chiefly as were the objects of traditional belief, more than of argu- 
ment or disputation. After the first alarm, therefore, was over, which 
arose from the new paradoxes and principles of the philosophers; 
these teachers seem ever after, during the ages of antiquity, to have 
lived in great harmony with the established superstition, and to have 
made a fair partition of mankind between them; the former claiming 
all the learned and wise, the latter possessing all the vulgar and 
illiterate. 

It seems then, say I, that you leave politics entirely out of the ques- 
tion, and never suppose, that a wise magistrate can justly be jealous 
of certain tenets of philosophy, such as those of Epicurus, which, 
denying a divine existence, and consequently a providence and a 
future state, seem to loosen, in a great measure the ties of morality, 
and may be supposed, for that reason, pernicious to the peace of 
civil society. 

I know, replied he, that in fact these persecutions never, in any age, 
proceeded from calm reason, or from experience of the pernicious 
consequences of philosophy; but arose entirely from passion and 
prejudice. But what if I should advance farther, and assert, that if 
Epicurus had been accused before the people, by any of the syco- 
phants or informers of those days, he could easily have defended his 
cause, and proved his principles of philosophy to be as salutary as 
those of his adversaries, who endeavoured, with such zeal, to expose 
him to the public hatred and jealousy? 

I wish, said I, you would try your eloquence upon so extraordinary 
a topic, and make a speech for Epicurus, which might satisfy, not the 
mob of Athens, if you will allow that ancient and polite city to have 



PROVIDENCE AND A FUTURE STATE 395 

contained any mob, but the more philosophical part of his audience, 
such as might be supposed capable of comprehending his arguments. 

The matter would not be difficult, upon such conditions, replied 
he : and if you please, I shall suppose myself Epicurus for a moment, 
and make you stand for the Athenian people, and shall deliver you 
such an harangue as will fill all the urn with white beans, and leave 
not a black one to gratify the malice of my adversaries. 

Very well: pray proceed upon these suppositions. 

I come hither, O ye Athenians, to justify in your assembly what 
I maintain in my school, and I find myself impeached by furious 
antagonists, instead of reasoning with calm and dispassionate en- 
quirers. Your deliberations, which of right should be directed to 
questions of public good, and the interest of the commonwealth, are 
diverted to the disquisitions of speculative philosophy; and these 
magnificent, but perhaps fruitless enquiries, take place of your more 
familiar but more useful occupations. But so far as in me lies, I will 
prevent this abuse. We shall not here dispute concerning the origin 
and government of worlds. We shall only enquire how far such 
questions concern the public interest. And if I can persuade you, that 
they are entirely indifferent to the peace of society and security of 
government, I hope that you will presently send us back to our 
schools, there to examine, at leisure, the question the most sublime, 
but, at the same time, the most speculative of all philosophy. 

The religious philosophers, not satisfied with the tradition of your 
forefathers, and doctrine of your priests (in which I willingly ac- 
quiesce), indulge a rash curiosity, in trying how far they can 
establish religion upon the principles of reason; and they thereby 
excite, instead of satisfying, the doubts, which naturally arise from 
a diligent and scrutinous enquiry. They paint, in the most mag- 
nificent colours, the order, beauty, and wise arrangement of the 
universe; and then ask, if such a glorious display of intelligence 
could proceed from the fortuitous concourse of atoms, or if chance 
could produce what the greatest genius can never sufficiently admire. 
I shall not examine the justness of this argument. I shall allow it to 
be as solid as my antagonists and accusers can desire. It is sufficient, 
if I can prove, from this very reasoning, that the question is entirely 
speculative, and that, when, in my philosophical disquisitions, I deny 



396 DAVID HUME 

a providence and a future state, I undermine not the foundations of 
society, but advance principles, which they themselves, upon their 
own topics, if they argue consistently, must allow to be solid and 
satisfactory. 

You then, who are my accusers, have acknowledged, that the chief 
or sole argument for a divine existence (which I never questioned) 
is derived from the order of nature; where there appear such marks 
of intelligence and design, that you think it extravagant to assign 
for its cause, either chance, or the blind and unguided force of mat- 
ter. You allow, that this is an argument drawn from effects to causes. 
From the order of the work, you infer, that there must have been 
project and forethought in the workman. If you cannot make out 
this point, you allow, that your conclusion fails; and you pretend not 
to establish the conclusion in a greater latitude than the phenomena 
of nature will justify. These are your concessions. I desire you to 
mark the consequences. 

When we infer any particular cause from an effect, we must pro- 
portion the one to the other, and can never be allowed to ascribe to 
the cause any qualities, but what are exactly sufficient to produce the 
effect. A body of ten ounces raised in any scale may serve as a proof, 
that the counterbalancing weight exceeds ten ounces; but can never 
afford a reason that it exceeds a hundred. If the cause, assigned for 
any effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that 
cause, or add to it such qualities as will give it a just proportion to 
the effect. But if we ascribe to it farther qualities, or affirm it capable 
of producing other effects, we can only indulge the licence of conjec- 
ture, and arbitrarily suppose the existence of qualities and energies, 
without reason or authority. 

The same rule holds, whether the cause assigned be brute uncon- 
scious matter, or a rational intelligent being. If the cause be known 
only by the effect, we never ought to ascribe to it any qualities, beyond 
what are precisely requisite to produce the effect : nor can we, by any 
rules of just reasoning, return back from the cause, and infer other 
effects from it, beyond those by which alone it is known to us. No 
one, merely from the sight of one of Zeuxis's pictures, could know, 
that he was also a statuary or architect, and was an artist no less skil- 
ful in stone and marble than in colours. The talents and taste, dis- 



PROVIDENCE AND A FUTURE STATE 397 

played in the particular work before us; these we may safely conclude 
the workman to be possessed of. The cause must be proportioned to 
the effect; and if we exactly and precisely proportion it, we shall 
never find in it any qualities, that point farther, or afford an inference 
concerning any other design or performance. Such qualities must be 
somewhat beyond what is merely requisite for producing the effect, 
which we examine. 

Allowing, therefore, the gods to be the authors of the existence 
or order of the universe; it follows, that they possess that precise 
degree of power, intelligence, and benevolence, which appears in 
their workmanship; but nothing farther can ever be proved, except 
we call in the assistance of exaggeration and flattery to supply the de- 
fects of argument and reasoning. So far as the traces of any 
attributes, at present, appear, so far may we conclude these attributes 
to exist. The supposition of farther attributes is mere hypothesis; 
much more the supposition, that, in distant regions of space or pe- 
riods of time, there has been, or will be, a more magnificent display 
of these attributes, and a scheme of administration more suitable to 
such imaginary virtues. We can never be allowed to mount up from 
the universe, the effect, to Jupiter, the cause; and then descend down- 
wards, to infer any new effect from that cause; as if the present effects 
alone were not entirely worthy of the glorious attributes, which we 
ascribe to that deity. The knowledge of the cause being derived solely 
from the effect, they must be exactly adjusted to each other; and the 
one can never refer to anything farther, or be the foundation of any 
new inference and conclusion. 

You find certain phenomena in nature. You seek a cause or 
author. You imagine that you have found him. You afterwards be- 
come so enamoured of this offspring of your brain, that you imagine 
it impossible, but he must produce something greater and more 
perfect than the present scene of things, which is so full of ill and 
disorder. You forget, that this superlative intelligence and benevo- 
lence are entirely imaginary, or, at least, without any foundation in 
reason; and that you have no ground to ascribe to him any qualities, 
but what you see he has actually exerted and displayed in his 
productions. Let your gods, therefore, O philosophers, be suited to 
the present appearances of nature: and presume not to alter these 



398 DAVID HUME 

appearances by arbitrary suppositions, in order to suit them to the 
attributes, which you so fondly ascribe to your deities. 

When priests and poets, supported by your authority, O Athen- 
ians, talk of a golden or silver age, which preceded the present state 
of vice and misery, I hear them with attention and with reverence. 
But when philosophers, who pretend to neglect authority, and to cul- 
tivate reason, hold the same discourse, I pay them not, I own, the 
same obsequious submission and pious deference. I ask; who carried 
them into the celestial regions, who admitted them into the councils 
of the gods, who opened to them the book of fate, that they thus 
rashly affirm, that their deities have executed, or will execute, any 
purpose beyond what has actually appeared? If they tell me, that 
they have mounted on the steps or by the gradual ascent of reason, 
and by drawing inferences from effects to causes, I still insist, that 
they have aided the ascent of reason by the wings of imagination; 
otherwise they could not thus change their manner of inference, and 
argue from causes to effects; presuming, that a more perfect produc- 
tion than the present world would be more suitable to such perfect 
beings as the gods, and forgetting that they have no reason to ascribe 
to these celestial beings any perfection or any attribute, but what can 
be found in the present world. 

Hence all the fruitless industry to account for the ill appearances of 
nature, and save the honour of the gods; while we must acknowledge 
the reality of that evil and disorder, with which the world so much 
abounds. The obstinate and intractable qualities of matter, we are 
told, or the observance of general laws, or some such reason, is the 
sole cause, which controlled the power and benevolence of Jupiter, 
and obliged him to create mankind and every sensible creature so im- 
perfect and so unhappy. These attributes then, are, it seems, before- 
hand, taken for granted, in their greatest latitude. And upon that 
supposition, I own that such conjectures may, perhaps, be admitted 
as plausible solutions of the ill phenomena. But still I ask; Why take 
these attributes for granted, or why ascribe to the cause any qualities 
but what actually appear in the effect? Why torture your brain to 
justify the course of nature upon suppositions, which, for aught you 
know, may be entirely imaginary, and of which there are to be found 
no traces in the course of nature ? 



PROVIDENCE AND A FUTURE STATE 399 

The religious hypothesis, therefore, must be considered only as a 
particular method of accounting for the visible phenomena of the 
universe: but no just reasoner will ever presume to infer from it any 
single fact, and alter or add to the phenomena, in any single par- 
ticular. If you think, that the appearances of things prove such causes, 
it is allowable for you to draw an inference concerning the existence 
of these causes. In such complicated and sublime subjects, every one 
should be indulged in the liberty of conjecture and argument. But 
here you ought to rest. If you come backward, and arguing from 
your inferred causes, conclude, that any other fact has existed, or will 
exist, in the course of nature, which may serve as a fuller display of 
particular attributes; I must admonish you, that you have departed 
from the method of reasoning, attached to the present subject, and 
have certainly added something to the attributes of the cause, be- 
yond what appears in the effect; otherwise you could never, with 
tolerable sense or propriety, add anything to the effect, in order to 
render it more worthy of the cause. 

Where, then, is the odiousness of that doctrine, which I teach in 
my school, or rather, which I examine in my gardens? Or what do 
you find in this whole question, wherein the security of good morals, 
or the peace and order of society, is in the least concerned ? 

I deny a providence, you say, and supreme governor of the world, 
who guides the course of events, and punishes the vicious with in- 
famy and disappointment, and rewards the virtuous with honour and 
success, in all their undertakings. But surely, I deny not the course 
itself of events, which lies open to every one's inquiry and examina- 
tion. I acknowledge, that, in the present order of things, virtue is 
attended with more peace of mind than vice, and meets with a more 
favourable reception from the world. I am sensible, that, according 
to the past experience of mankind, friendship is the chief joy of 
human life, and moderation the only source of tranquillity and happi- 
ness. I never balance between the virtuous and the vicious course of 
life; but am sensible, that, to a well-disposed mind, every advantage 
is on the side of the former. And what can you say more, allowing 
all your suppositions and reasonings ? You tell me, indeed, that this 
disposition of things proceeds from intelligence and design. But 
whatever it proceeds from, the disposition itself, on which depends 



40O DAVID HUME 

our happiness or misery, and consequently our conduct and deport- 
ment in life is still the same. It is still open for me, as well as you, 
to regulate my behaviour, by my experience of past events. And if 
you affirm, that, while a divine providence is allowed and a supreme 
distributive justice in the universe, I ought to expect some more par- 
ticular reward of the good, and punishment of the bad, beyond the 
ordinary course of events; I here find the same fallacy, which I have 
before endeavoured to detect. You persist in imagining, that, if we 
grant that divine existence, for which you so earnestly contend, you 
may safely infer consequences from it, and add something to the 
experienced order of nature, by arguing from the attributes which 
you ascribe to your gods. You seem not to remember, that all your 
reasonings on this subject can only be drawn from effects to causes; 
and that every argument, deducted from causes to effects, must of 
necessity be a gross sophism; since it is impossible for you to know 
anything of the cause, but what you have antecedently, not inferred, 
but discovered to the full, in the effect. 

But what must a philosopher think of those vain reasoners, who 
instead of regarding the present scene of things as the sole object 
of their contemplation, so far reverse the whole course of nature, as to 
render this life merely a passage to something farther; a porch, which 
leads to a greater, and vastly different building; a prologue, which 
serves only to introduce the piece, and give it more grace and pro- 
priety? Whence, do you think, can such philosophers derive their 
idea of the gods? From their own conceit and imagination surely. 
For if they derived it from the present phenomena, it would never 
point to anything farther, but must be exactly adjusted to them. That 
the divinity may possibly be endowed with attributes, which we have 
never seen exerted; may be governed by principles of action, which 
we cannot discover to be satisfied : all this will freely be allowed. But 
still this is mere possibility and hypothesis. We never can have rea- 
son to infer any attributes, or any principles of action in him, but so 
far as we know them to have been exerted and satisfied. 

Are there any mar\s of a distributive justice in the world? If you 
answer in the affirmative, I conclude, that, since justice here exerts 
itself, it is satisfied. If you reply in the negative, I conclude, that you 
have then no reason to ascribe justice, in our sense of it, to the gods. 



PROVIDENCE AND A FUTURE STATE 40 1 

If you hold a medium between affirmation and negation, by saying, 
that the justice of the gods, at present, exerts itself in part, but not 
in its full extent; I answer, that you have no reason to give it any 
particular extent, but only so far as you see it, at present, exert itself. 

Thus I bring the dispute, O Athenians, to a short issue with my 
antagonists. The course of nature lies open to my contemplation as 
well as to theirs. The experienced train of events is the great stand- 
ard, by which we all regulate our conduct. Nothing else can be ap- 
pealed to in the field, or in the senate. Nothing else ought ever to 
be heard of in the school, or in the closet. In vain would our limited 
understanding break through those boundaries, which are too narrow 
for our fond imagination. While we argue from the course of nature, 
and infer a particular intelligent cause, which first bestowed, and still 
preserves order in the universe, we embrace a principle, which is 
both uncertain and useless. It is uncertain; because the subject lies 
entirely beyond the reach of human experience. It is useless; because 
our knowledge of this cause being derived entirely from the course of 
nature, we can never, according to the rules of just reasoning, return 
back from the cause with any new inference, or making additions to 
the common and experienced course of nature, establish any new 
principles of conduct and behaviour. 

I observe (said I, finding he had finished his harangue) that you 
neglect not the artifice of the demagogues of old; and as you were 
pleased to make me stand for the people, you insinuate yourself into 
my favour by embracing those principles, to which, you know, I have 
always expressed a particular attachment. But allowing you to make 
experience (as indeed I think you ought) the only standard of our 
judgement concerning this, and all other questions of fact; I doubt 
not but, from the very same experience, to which you appeal, it may 
be possible to refute this reasoning, which you have put into the 
mouth of Epicurus. If you saw, for instance, a half-finished build- 
ing, surrounded with heaps of brick and stone and mortar, and all 
the instruments of masonry; could you not infer from the effect, that 
it was a work of design and contrivance? And could you not return 
again, from this inferred cause, to infer new additions to the effect, 
and conclude, that the building would soon be finished, and receive 
all the further improvements, which art could bestow upon it? If 



4O2 DAVID HUME 

you saw upon the sea-shore the print of one human foot, you would 
conclude, that a man had passed that way, and that he had also 
left the traces of the other foot, though effaced by the rolling of the 
sands or inundation of the waters. Why then do you refuse to admit 
the same method of reasoning with regard to the order of nature? 
Consider the world and the present life only as an imperfect build- 
ing, from which you can infer a superior intelligence; and arguing 
from that superior intelligence, which can leave nothing imperfect; 
why may you not infer a more finished scheme or plan, which will 
receive its completion in some distant point of space or time? 
Are not these methods of reasoning exactly similar? And under 
what pretence can you embrace the one, while you reject the 
other? 

The infinite difference of the subjects, replied he, is a sufficient 
foundation for this difference in my conclusions. In works of human 
art and contrivance, it is allowable to advance from the effect to the 
cause, and returning back from the cause, to form new inferences 
concerning the effect, and examine the alterations, which it has 
probably undergone, or may still undergo. But what is the founda- 
tion of this method of reasoning? Plainly this; that man is a being, 
whom we know by experience, whose motives and designs we are 
acquainted with, and whose projects and inclinations have a certain 
connexion and coherence, according to the laws which nature has 
established for the government of such a creature. When, therefore, 
we find, that any work has proceeded from the skill and industry of 
man; as we are otherwise acquainted with the nature of the animal, 
we can draw a hundred inferences concerning what may be expected 
from him; and these inferences will all be founded in experience 
and observation. But did we know man only from the single work 
or production which we examine, it were impossible for us to argue 
in this manner; because our knowledge of all the qualities, which we 
ascribe to him, being in that case derived from the production, it is 
impossible they could point to anything farther, or be the foundation 
of any new inference. The print of a foot in the sand can only prove, 
when considered alone, that there was some figure adapted to it, by 
which it was produced: but the print of a human foot proves like- 
wise, from our other experience, that there was probably another 
foot, which also left its impression, though effaced by time or other 



PROVIDENCE AND A FUTURE STATE 403 

accidents. Here we mount from the effect to the cause; and descend- 
ing again from the cause, infer alterations in the effect; but this is 
not a continuation of the same simple chain of reasoning. We com- 
prehend in this case a hundred other experiences and observations, 
concerning the usual figure and members of that species of animal, 
without which this method of argument must be considered as fal- 
lacious and sophistical. 

The case is not the same with our reasonings from the works of 
nature. The Deity is known to us only by his productions, and is a 
single being in the universe, not comprehended under any species or 
genus, from whose experienced attributes or qualities, we can, by 
analogy, infer any attribute or quality in him. As the universe shews 
wisdom and goodness, we infer wisdom and goodness. As it shews 
a particular degree of these perfections, we infer a particular degree 
of them, precisely adapted to the effect which we examine. But 
farther attributes or farther degrees of the same attributes, we can 
never be authorised to infer or suppose, by any rules of just reason- 
ing. Now, without some such licence of supposition, it is impossible 
for us to argue from the cause, or infer any alteration in the effect, 
beyond what has immediately fallen under our observation. Greater 
good produced by this Being must still prove a greater degree of 
goodness : a more impartial distribution of rewards and punishments 
must proceed from a greater regard to justice and equity. Every sup- 
posed addition to the works of nature makes an addition to the at- 
tributes of the Author of nature; and consequently, being entirely 
unsupported by any reason or argument, can never be admitted but 
as mere conjecture and hypothesis. 4 

4 In general, it may, I think, be established as a mnxim, that where any cause 
is known only by its particular effects, it must be impossible to infer any new 
effects from that cause; since the qualities, which are requisite to produce these new 
effects along with the former, must either be different, or superior, or of more extensive 
operation, than those which simply produced the effect, whence alone the cause is 
supposed to be known to us. We can never, therefore, have any reason to suppose the 
existence of these qualities. To say, that the new effects proceed only from a contin- 
uation of the same energy, which is already known from the first effects, will not 
remove the difficulty. For even granting this to be the case (which can seldom be 
supposed), the very continuation and exertion of a like energy (for it is impossible 
it can be absolutely the same), I say, this exertion of a like energy, in a different 
period of space and time, is a very arbitrary supposition, and what there cannot 
possibly be any traces of in the effects, from which all our knowledge of the cause is 
originally derived. Let the inferred cause be exactly proportioned (as it should be) 
to the known effect; and it is impossible that it can possess any qualities, from which 
new or different effects can be inferred. 



404 DAVID HUME 

The great source of our mistake in this subject, and of the un- 
bounded licence of conjecture, which we indulge, is, that we tacitly 
consider ourselves, as in the place of the Supreme Being, and con- 
clude, that he will, on every occasion, observe the same conduct, 
which we ourselves, in his situation, would have embraced as reason- 
able and eligible. But, besides that the ordinary course of nature 
may convince us, that almost everything is regulated by principles 
and maxims very different from ours; besides this, I say, it must 
evidently appear contrary to all rules of analogy to reason, from the 
intentions and projects of men, to those of a Being so different, and 
so much superior. In human nature, there is a certain experienced 
coherence of designs and inclinations; so that when, from any fact, 
we have discovered one intention of any man, it may often be rea- 
sonable, from experience, to infer another, and draw a long chain of 
conclusions concerning his past or future conduct. But this method 
of reasoning can never have place with regard to a Being, so remote 
and incomprehensible, who bears much less analogy to any other 
being in the universe than the sun to a waxen taper, and who dis- 
covers himself only by some faint traces or outlines, beyond which 
we have no authority to ascribe to him any attribute or perfection. 
What we imagine to be a superior perfection, may really be a defect. 
Or were it ever so much a perfection, the ascribing of it to the 
Supreme Being, where it appears not to have been really exerted, to 
the full, in his works, savours more of flattery and panegyric, than 
of just reasoning and sound philosophy. All the philosophy, there- 
fore, in the world, and all the religion, which is nothing but a species 
of philosophy, will never be able to carry us beyond the usual course 
of experience, or give us measures of conduct and behaviour different 
from those which are furnished by reflections on common life. No 
new fact can ever be inferred from the religious hypothesis; no event 
foreseen or foretold; no reward or punishment expected or dreaded, 
beyond what is already known by practice and observation. So that 
my apology for Epicurus will still appear solid and satisfactory; nor 
have the political interests of society any connexion with the philo- 
sophical disputes concerning metaphysics and religion. 

There is still one circumstance, replied I, which you seem to have 
overlooked. Though I should allow your premises, I must deny 



PROVIDENCE AND A FUTURE STATE 405 

your conclusion. You conclude, that religious doctrines and reason- 
ings can have no influence on life, because they ought to have no 
influence; never considering, that men reason not in the same manner 
you do, but draw many consequences from the belief of a divine 
Existence, and suppose that the Deity will inflict punishments on 
vice, and bestow rewards on virtue, beyond what appear in the 
ordinary course of nature. Whether this reasoning of theirs be just 
or not, is no matter. Its influence on their life and conduct must 
still be the same. And those, who attempt to disabuse them of such 
prejudices, may, for aught I know, be good reasoners, but I cannot 
allow them to be good citizens and politicians; since they free men 
from one restraint upon their passions, and make the infringement 
of the laws of society, in one respect, more easy and secure. 

After all, I may, perhaps, agree to your general conclusion in 
favour of liberty, though upon different premises from those, on 
which you endeavour to found it. I think, that the state ought to 
tolerate every principle of philosophy; nor is there an instance, that 
any government has suffered in its political interests by such indul- 
gence. There is no enthusiasm among philosophers; their doctrines 
are not very alluring to the people; and no restraint can be put upon 
their reasonings, but what must be of dangerous consequence to the 
sciences, and even to the state, by paving the way for persecution 
and oppression in points, where the generality of mankind are more 
deeply interested and concerned. 

But there occurs to me (continued I) with regard to your main 
topic, a difficulty, which I shall just propose to you without insisting 
on it; lest it lead into reasonings of too nice and delicate a nature. 
In a word, I much doubt whether it be possible for a causa to be 
known only by its effect (as you have all along supposed) or to be 
of so singular and particular a nature as to have no parallel and no 
similarity with any other cause or object, that has ever fallen under 
our observation. It is only when two species of objects are found to 
be constantly conjoined, that we can infer the one from the other; 
and were an effect presented, which was entirely singular, and could 
not be comprehended under any known species, I do not see, that 
we could form any conjecture or inference at all concerning its cause. 
If experience and observation and analogy be, indeed, the only guides 



406 DAVID HUME 

which we can reasonably follow in inferences of this nature; both 
the effect and cause must bear a similarity and resemblance to other 
effects and causes, which we know, and which we have found, in 
many instances, to be conjoined with each other. I leave it to your 
own reflection to pursue the consequences of this principle. I shall 
just observe, that, as the antagonists of Epicurus always suppose the 
universe, an effect quite singular and unparalleled, to be the proof 
of a Deity, a cause no less singular and unparalleled; your reason- 
ings, upon that supposition, seem, at least, to merit our attention. 
There is, I own, some difficulty, how we can ever return from the 
cause to the effect, and, reasoning from our ideas of the former, 
infer any alteration on the latter, or any addition to it. 



SECTION XII 
OF THE ACADEMICAL OR SCEPTICAL PHILOSOPHY 

PART! 

THERE is not a greater number of philosophical reasonings, 
displayed upon any subject, than those, which prove the 
existence of a Deity, and refute the fallacies of Atheists; 
and yet the most religious philosophers still dispute whether any man 
can be so blinded as to be a speculative atheist. How shall we recon- 
cile these contradictions ? The knights errant, who wandered about 
to clear the world of dragons and giants, never entertained the least 
doubt with regard to the existence of these monsters. 

The Sceptic is another enemy of religion, who naturally provokes 
the indignation of all divines and graver philosophers; though it is 
certain, that no man ever met with any such absurd creature, or 
conversed with a man, who had no opinion or principle concerning 
any subject, either of action or speculation. This begets a very 
natural question; What is meant by a sceptic? And how far it is 
possible to push these philosophical principles of doubt and uncer- 
tainty ? 

There is a species of scepticism, antecedent to all study and phil- 
osophy, which is much inculcated by Des Cartes and others, as a 
sovereign preservative against error and precipitate judgement. It 
recommends an universal doubt, not only of all our former opinions 
and principles, but also of our very faculties; of whose veracity, say 
they, we must assure ourselves, by a chain of reasoning, deduced 
from some original principle, which cannot possibly be fallacious or 
deceitful. But neither is there any such original principle, which 
has a prerogative above others, that are self-evident and convincing: 
or if there were, could we advance a step beyond it, but by the use 
of those very faculties, of which we are supposed to be already diffi- 
dent. The Cartesian doubt, therefore, were it ever possible to be 

407 



408 DAVID HUME 

attained by any human creature (as it plainly is not) would be en- 
tirely incurable; and no reasoning could ever bring us to a state of 
assurance and conviction upon any subject. 

It must, however, be confessed, that this species of scepticism, 
when more moderate, may be understood in a very reasonable sense, 
and is a necessary preparative to the study of philosophy, by pre- 
serving a proper impartiality in our judgements, and weaning our 
mind from all those prejudices, which we may have imbibed from 
education or rash opinion. To begin with clear and self-evident 
principles, to advance by timorous and sure steps, to review fre- 
quently our conclusions, and examine accurately all their conse- 
quences; though by these means we shall make both a slow and a 
short progress in our systems; are the only methods, by which we 
can ever hope to reach truth, and attain a proper stability and cer- 
tainty in our determinations. 

There is another species of scepticism, consequent to science and 
enquiry, when men are supposed to have discovered, either the 
absolute fallaciousness of their mental faculties, or their unfitness to 
reach any fixed determination in all those curious subjects of specu- 
lation, about which they are commonly employed. Even our very 
senses are brought into dispute, by a certain species of philosophers; 
and the maxims of common life are subjected to the same doubt as 
the most profound principles or conclusions of metaphysics and 
theology. As these paradoxical tenets (if they may be called tenets) 
are to be met with in some philosophers, and the refutation of them 
in several, they naturally excite our curiosity, and make us enquire 
into the arguments, on which they may be founded. 

I need not insist upon the more trite topics, employed by the 
sceptics in all ages, against the evidence of sense; such as those which 
are derived from the imperfection and fallaciousness of our organs, 
on numberless occasions; the crooked appearance of an oar in water; 
the various aspects of objects, according to their different distances; 
the double images which arise from the pressing one eye; with many 
other appearances of a like nature. These sceptical topics, indeed, 
are only sufficient to prove, that the senses alone are not implicitly 
to be depended on; but that we must correct their evidence by rea- 
son, and by considerations, derived from the nature of the medium, 



THE ACADEMICAL PHILOSOPHY 409 

the distance of the object, and the disposition of the organ, in order 
to render them, within their sphere, the proper criteria of truth and 
falsehood. There are other more profound arguments against the 
senses, which admit not of so easy a solution. 

It seems evident, that men are carried, by a natural instinct or 
prepossession, to repose faith in their senses; and that, without any 
reasoning, or even almost before the use of reason, we always sup- 
pose an external universe, which depends not on our perception, but 
would exist, though we and every sensible creature were absent or 
annihilated. Even the animal creation are governed by a like opin- 
ion, and preserve this belief of external objects, in all their thoughts, 
designs, and actions. 

It seems also evident, that, when men follow this blind and power- 
ful instinct of nature, they always suppose the very images, presented 
by the senses, to be the external objects, and never entertain any 
suspicion, that the one are nothing but representations of the other. 
This very table, which we see white, and which we feel hard, is be- 
lieved to exist, independent of our perception, and to be something 
external to our mind, which perceives it. Our presence bestows not 
being on it : our absence does not annihilate it. It preserves its exist- 
ence uniform and entire, independent of the situation of intelligent 
beings, who perceive or contemplate it. 

But this universal and primary opinion of all men is soon de- 
stroyed by the slightest philosophy, which teaches us, that nothing 
can ever be present to the mind but an image or perception, and 
that the senses are only the inlets, through which these images are 
conveyed, without being able to produce any immediate intercourse 
between the mind and the object. The table, which we see, seems 
to diminish, as we remove farther from it: but the real table, which 
exists independent of us, suffers no alteration: it was, therefore, 
nothing but its image, which was present to the mind. These are 
the obvious dictates of reason; and no man, who reflects, ever 
doubted, that the existences, which we consider, when we say, this 
house and that tree, are nothing but perceptions in the mind, and 
fleeting copies or representations of other existences, which remain 
uniform and independent. 

So far, then, are we necessitated by reasoning to contradict or 



4IO DAVID HUME 

depart from the primary instincts of nature, and to embrace a new 
system with regard to the evidence of our senses. But here philosophy 
finds herself extremely embarrassed, when she would justify this 
new system, and obviate the cavils and objections of the sceptics. 
She can no longer plead the infallible and irresistible instinct of 
nature : for that led us to a quite different system, which is acknowl- 
edged fallible and even erroneous. And to justify this pretended 
philosophical system, by a chain of clear and convincing argument, 
or even any appearance of argument, exceeds the power of all human 
capacity. 

By what argument can it be proved, that the perceptions of the 
mind must be caused by external objects, entirely different from 
them, though resembling them (if that be possible) and could not 
arise either from the energy of the mind itself, or from the sugges- 
tion of some invisible and unknown spirit, or from some other cause 
still more unknown to us? It is acknowledged, that, in fact, many 
of these perceptions arise not from anything external, as in dreams, 
madness, and other diseases. And nothing can be more inexplicable 
than the manner, in which body should so operate upon mind as 
ever to convey an image of itself to a substance, supposed of so dif- 
ferent, and even contrary a nature. 

It is a question of fact, whether the perceptions of the senses be 
produced by external objects, resembling them: how shall this ques- 
tion be determined? By experience surely; as all other questions of 
a like nature. But here experience is, and must be entirely silent. 
The mind has never anything present to it but the perceptions, and 
cannot possibly reach any experience of their connexion with objects. 
The supposition of such a connexion is, therefore, without any 
foundation in reasoning. 

To have recourse to the veracity of the supreme Being, in order 
to prove the veracity of our senses, is surely making a very unex- 
pected circuit. If his veracity were at all concerned in this matter, 
our senses would be entirely infallible; because it is not possible that 
he can ever deceive. Not to mention, that, if the external world be 
once called in question, we shall be at a loss to find arguments, by 
which we may prove the existence of that Being or any of his 
attributes. 



THE ACADEMICAL PHILOSOPHY 411 

This is a topic, therefore, in which the profounder and more 
philosophical sceptics will always triumph, when they endeavour to 
introduce an universal doubt into all subjects of human knowledge 
and enquiry. Do you follow the instincts and propensities of nature, 
may they say, in assenting to the veracity of sense? But these lead 
you to believe that the very perception or sensible image is the 
external object. Do you disclaim this principle, in order to embrace 
a more rational opinion, that the perceptions are only representations 
of something external? You here depart from your natural pro- 
pensities and more obvious sentiments; and yet are not able to satisfy 
your reason, which can never find any convincing argument from 
experience to prove, that the perceptions are connected with any 
external objects. 

There is another sceptical topic of a like nature, derived from the 
most profound philosophy; which might merit our attention, were 
it requisite to dive so deep, in order to discover arguments and rea- 
sonings, which can so little serve to any serious purpose. It is uni- 
versally allowed by modern enquirers, that all the sensible qualities 
of objects, such as hard, soft, hot, cold, white, black, &c. are merely 
secondary, and exist not in the objects themselves, but are percep- 
tions of the mind, without any external archetype or model, which 
they represent. If this be allowed, with regard to secondary qualities, 
it must also follow, with regard to the supposed primary qualities 
of extension and solidity; nor can the latter be any more entitled to 
that denomination than the former. The idea of extension is entirely 
acquired from the senses of sight and feeling; and if all the qualities, 
perceived by the senses, be in the mind, not in the object, the same 
conclusion must reach the idea of extension, which is wholly de- 
pendent on the sensible ideas or the ideas of secondary qualities. 
Nothing can save us from this conclusion, but the asserting, that 
the ideas of those primary qualities are attained by Abstraction, an 
opinion, which, if we examine it accurately, we shall find to be un- 
intelligible, and even absurd. An extension, that is neither tangible 
nor visible, cannot possibly be conceived: and a tangible or visible 
extension, which is neither hard nor soft, black nor white, is equally 
beyond the reach of human conception. Let any man try to con- 
ceive a triangle in general, which is neither Isosceles nor Scalenum, 



412 DAVID HUME 

nor has any particular length or proportion of sides; and he will 
soon perceive the absurdity of all the scholastic notions with regard 
to abstraction and general ideas. 1 

Thus the first philosophical objection to the evidence of sense or 
to the opinion of external existence consists in this, that such an 
opinion, if rested on natural instinct, is contrary to reason, and if 
referred to reason, is contrary to natural instinct, and at the same 
time carries no rational evidence with it, to convince an impartial 
enquirer. The second objection goes farther, and represents this 
opinion as contrary to reason: at least, if it be a principle of reason, 
that all sensible qualities are in the mind, not in the object. Bereave 
matter of all its intelligible qualities, both primary and secondary, 
you in a manner annihilate it, and leave only a certain unknown, 
inexplicable something, as the cause of our perceptions; a notion so 
imperfect, that no sceptic will think it worth while to contend 
against it. 

PART II 

IT may seem a very extravagant attempt of the sceptics to destroy 
reason by argument and ratiocination; yet is this the grand scope of 
all their enquiries and disputes. They endeavour to find objections, 
both to our abstract reasonings, and to those which regard matter 
of fact and existence. 

The chief objection against all abstract reasonings is derived from 
the ideas of space and time; ideas, which, in common life and to a 
careless view, are very clear and intelligible, but when they pass 
through the scrutiny of the profound sciences (and they are the 
chief object of these sciences) afford principles, which seem full of 
absurdity and contradiction. No priestly dogmas, invented on pur- 
pose to tame and subdue the rebellious reason of mankind, ever 
shocked common sense more than the doctrine of the infinitive 



argument is drawn from Dr. Berkeley; and indeed most of the writings 
of that very ingenious author form the best lessons of scepticism, which are to be found 
either among the ancient or modern philosophers, Bayle not excepted. He professes, 
however, in his title-page (and undoubtedly with great truth) to have composed his 
book against the sceptics as well as against the atheists and free-thinkers. But that 
all his arguments, though otherwise intended, are, in reality, merely sceptical, appears 
from this, that they admit of no answer and produce no conviction. Their only 
effect is to cause that momentary amazement and irresolution and confusion, which is 
the result of scepticism. 



THE ACADEMICAL PHILOSOPHY 413 

divisibility of extension, with its consequences; as they are pompously 
displayed by all geometricians and metaphysicians, with a kind of 
triumph and exultation. A real quantity, infinitely less than any 
finite quantity, containing quantities infinitely less than itself, and 
so on in infinitum; this is an edifice so bold and prodigious, that it 
is too weighty for any pretended demonstration to support, because 
it shocks the clearest and most natural principles of human reason. 2 
But what renders the matter more extraordinary, is, that these seem- 
ingly absurd opinions are supported by a chain of reasoning, the 
clearest and most natural; nor is it possible for us to allow the 
premises without admitting the consequences. Nothing can be more 
convincing and satisfactory than all the conclusions concerning the 
properties of circles and triangles; and yet, when these are once re- 
ceived, how can we deny, that the angle of contact between a circle 
and its tangent is infinitely less than any rectilineal angle, that as 
you may increase the diameter of the circle in infinitum, this angle 
of contact becomes still less, even in infinitum, and that the angle of 
contact between other curves and their tangents may be infinitely 
less than those between any circle and its tangent, and so on, in 
infinitum? The demonstration of these principles seems as unex- 
ceptionable as that which proves the three angles of a triangle to 
be equal to two right ones, though the latter opinion be natural and 
easy, and the former big with contradiction and absurdity. Reason 
here seems to be thrown into a kind of amazement and suspence, 
which, without the suggestions of any sceptic, gives her a diffidence 
of herself, and of the ground on which she treads. She sees a full 
light, which illuminates certain places; but that light borders upon 
the most profound darkness. And between these she is so dazzled 
and confounded, that she scarcely can pronounce with certainty and 
assurance concerning any one object. 
The absurdity of these bold determinations of the abstract sciences 

2 Whatever disputes there may be about mathematical points, we must allow 
that there are physical points; that is, parts of extension, which cannot be divided 
or lessened, either by the eye or imagination. These images, then, which are present 
to the fancy or senses, are absolutely indivisible, and consequently must be allowed 
by mathematicians to be infinitely less than any real part of extension; and yet 
nothing appears more certain to reason, than that an infinite number of them com- 
poses an infinite extension. How much more an infinite number of those infinitely 
small parts of extension, which are still supposed infinitely divisible. 



414 DAVID HUME 

seems to become, if possible, still more palpable with regard to time 
than extension. An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in 
succession, and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a 
contradiction, that no man, one should think, whose judgement is 
not corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would 
ever be able to admit of it. 

Yet still reason must remain restless, and unquiet, even with regard 
to that scepticism, to which she is driven by these seeming absurdities 
and contradictions. How any clear, distinct idea can contain cir- 
cumstances, contradictory to itself, or to any other clear, distinct idea, 
is absolutely incomprehensible; and is, perhaps, as absurd as any 
proposition, which can be formed. So that nothing can be more 
sceptical, or more full of doubt and hesitation, than this scepticism 
itself, which arises from some of the paradoxical conclusions of 
geometry or the science of quantity. 3 

The sceptical objections to moral evidence, or to the reasonings 
concerning matter of fact, are either popular or philosophical. The 
popular objections are derived from the natural weakness of human 
understanding; the contradictory opinions, which have been enter- 
tained in different ages and nations; the variations of our judgement 
in sickness and health, youth and old age, prosperity and adversity; 
the perpetual contradiction of each particular man's opinions and 
sentiments; with many other topics of that kind. It is needless to 
insist farther on this head. These objections are but weak. For as, 
in common life, we reason every moment concerning fact and exist- 
ence, and cannot possibly subsist, without continually employing 

3 It seems to me not impossible to avoid these absurdities and contradictions, if it 
be admitted, that there is no such thing as abstract or general ideas, properly speaking; 
but that all general ideas are, in reality, particular ones, attached to a general term, 
which recalls, upon occasion, other particular ones, that resemble, in certain circum- 
stances, the idea, present to the mind. Thus when the term Horse is pronounced, 
we immediately figure to ourselves the idea of a black or a white animal, of a partic- 
ular size or figure: But as that term is also usually applied to animals of other colours, 
figures and sizes, these ideas, though not actually present to the imagination, are 
easily recalled; and our reasoning and conclusion proceed in the same way, as if they 
were actually present. If this be admitted (as seems reasonable) it follows that all 
the ideas of quantity, upon which mathematicians reason, are nothing but particular, 
and such as are suggested by the senses and imagination, and consequently, cannot be 
infinitely divisible. It is sufficient to have dropped this hint at present, without 
prosecuting it any farther. It certainly concerns all lovers of science not to expose 
themselves to the ridicule and contempt of the ignorant by their conclusions; and 
this seems the readiest solution of these difficulties. 



THE ACADEMICAL PHILOSOPHY 415 

this species of argument, any popular objections, derived from thence, 
must be insufficient to destroy that evidence. The great subverter 
of Pyrrhonism or the excessive principles of scepticism is action, and 
employment, and the occupations of common life. These principles 
may flourish and triumph in the schools; where it is, indeed, difficult, 
if not impossible, to refute them. But as soon as they leave the shade, 
and by the presence of the real objects, which actuate our passions 
and sentiments, are put in opposition to the more powerful principles 
of our nature, they vanish like smoke, and leave the most determined 
sceptic in the same condition as other mortals. 

The sceptic, therefore, had better keep within his proper sphere, 
and display those philosophical objections, which arise from more 
profound researches. Here he seems to have ample matter of 
triumph; while he justly insists, that all our evidence for any mat- 
ter of fact, which lies beyond the testimony of sense or memory, is 
derived entirely from the relation of cause and eflfect; that we have 
no other idea of this relation than that of two objects, which have 
been frequently conjoined together; that we have no argument to 
convince us, that objects, which have, in our experience, been fre- 
quently conjoined, will likewise, in other instances, be conjoined in 
the same manner; and that nothing leads us to this inference but 
custom or a certain instinct of our nature; which it is indeed difficult 
to resist, but which, like other instincts, may be fallacious and de- 
ceitful. While the sceptic insists upon these topics, he shows his 
force, or rather, indeed, his own and our weakness; and seems, for 
the time at least, to destroy all assurance and conviction. These 
arguments might be displayed at greater length, if any durable good 
or benefit to society could ever be expected to result from them. 

For here is the chief and most confounding objection to excessive 
scepticism, that no durable good can ever result from it; while it 
remains in its full force and vigour. We need only ask such a 
sceptic, What his meaning is? And what he proposes by all these 
curious researches? He is immediately at a loss, and knows not 
what to answer. A Copernican or Ptolemaic, who supports each 
his different system of astronomy, may hope to produce a convic- 
tion, which will remain constant and durable, with his audience. 
A Stoic or Epicurean displays principles, which may not be durable, 



416 DAVID HUME 

but which have an effect on conduct and behaviour. But a Pyr- 
rhonian cannot expect, that his philosophy will have any constant 
influence on the mind: or i it had, that its influence would be 
beneficial to society. On the contrary, he must acknowledge, if he 
will acknowledge anything, that all human life must perish, were 
his principles universally and steadily to prevail. All discourse, all 
action would immediately cease; and men remain in a total lethargy, 
till the necessities of nature, unsatisfied, put an end to their miserable 
existence. It is true; so fatal an event is very little to be dreaded. 
Nature is always too strong for principle. And though a Pyrrhonian 
may throw himself or others into a momentary amazement and 
confusion by his profound reasonings; the first and most trivial 
event in life will put to flight all his doubts and scruples, and leave 
him the same, in every point of action and speculation, with the 
philosophers of every other sect, or with those who never concerned 
themselves in any philosophical researches. When he awakes from 
his dream, he will be the first to join in the laugh against himself, 
and to confess, that all his objections are mere amusement, and can 
have no other tendency than to show the whimsical condition of 
mankind, who must act and reason and believe; though they are 
not able, by their most diligent enquiry, to satisfy themselves con- 
cerning the foundation of these operations, or to remove the objec- 
tions, which may be raised against them. 

PART III 

THERE is, indeed, a more mitigated scepticism or academical philos- 
ophy, which may be both durable and useful, and which may, in 
part, be the result of this Pyrrhonism, or excessive scepticism, when 
its undistinguished doubts are, in some measure, corrected by com- 
mon sense and reflection. The greater part of mankind are naturally 
apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while 
they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counter- 
poising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the 
principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence 
for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance 
perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends 



THE ACADEMICAL PHILOSOPHY 417 

their action. They are, therefore, impatient till they escape from a 
state, which to them is so uneasy: and they think, that they could 
never remove themselves far enough from it, by the violence of 
their affirmations and obstinacy of their belief. But could such dog- 
matical reasoners become sensible of the strange infirmities of human 
understanding, even in its most perfect state, and when most ac- 
curate and cautious in its determinations; such a reflection would 
naturally inspire them with more modesty and reserve, and dimin- 
ish their fond opinion of themselves, and their prejudice against 
antagonists. The illiterate may reflect on the disposition of the 
learned, who, amidst all the advantages of study and reflection, are 
commonly still diffident in their determinations: and if any of the 
learned be inclined, from their natural temper, to haughtiness and 
obstinacy, a small tincture of Pyrrhonism might abate their pride, 
by showing them, that the few advantages, which they may have 
attained over their fellows, are but inconsiderable, if compared with 
the universal perplexity and confusion, which is inherent in human 
nature. In general, there is a degree of doubt, and caution, and 
modesty, which, in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for 
ever to accompany a just reasoner. 

Another species of mitigated scepticism which may be of ad- 
vantage to mankind, and which may be the natural result of the 
Pyrrhonian doubts and scruples, is the limitation of our enquiries 
to such subjects as are best adapted to the narrow capacity of human 
understanding. The imagination of man is naturally sublime, de- 
lighted with whatever is remote and extraordinary, and running, 
without control, into the most distant parts of space and time in 
order to avoid the objects, which custom has rendered too familiar 
to it. A correct Judgement observes a contrary method, and avoid- 
ing all distant and high enquiries, confines itself to common life, 
and to such subjects as fall under daily practice and experience; 
leaving the more sublime topics to the embellishment of poets and 
orators, or to the arts of priests and politicians. To bring us to so 
salutary a determination, nothing can be more serviceable, than to 
be once thoroughly convinced of the force of the Pyrrhonian doubt, 
and of the impossibility, that anything, but the strong power of 
natural instinct, could free us from it. Those who have a propensity 



41 8 DAVID HUME 

to philosophy, will still continue their researches; because they re- 
flect, that, besides the immediate pleasure attending such an occupa- 
tion, philosophical decisions are nothing but the reflections of 
common life, methodized and corrected. But they will never be 
tempted to go beyond common life, so long as they consider the 
imperfection of those faculties which they employ, their narrow 
reach, and their inaccurate operations. While we cannot give a 
satisfactory reason, why we believe, after a thousand experiments, 
that a stone will fall, or fire burn; can we ever satisfy ourselves con- 
cerning any determination, which we may form, with regard to 
the origin of worlds, and the situation of nature, from, and to 
eternity ? 

This narrow limitation, indeed, of our enquiries, is, in every re- 
spect, so reasonable, that it suffices to make the slightest examination 
into the natural powers of the human mind and to compare them 
with their objects, in order to recommend it to us. We shall then 
find what are the proper subjects of science and enquiry. 

It seems to me, that the only objects of the abstract science or of 
demonstration are quantity and number, and that all attempts to 
extend this more perfect species of knowledge beyond these bounds 
are mere sophistry and illusion. As the component parts of quantity 
and number are entirely similar, their relations become intricate and 
involved; and nothing can be more curious, as well as useful, than 
to trace, by a variety of mediums, their equality or inequality, 
through their different appearances. But as all other ideas are clearly 
distinct and different from each other, we can never advance farther, 
by our utmost scrutiny, than to observe this diversity, and, by an 
obvious reflection, pronounce one thing not to be another. Or if 
there be any difficulty in these decisions, it proceeds entirely from 
the undeterminate meaning of words, which is corrected by juster 
definitions. That the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the 
squares of the other two sides, cannot be known, let the terms be 
ever so exactly defined, without a train of reasoning and enquiry. 
But to convince us of this proposition, that where there is no property, 
there can be no injustice, it is only necessary to define the terms, and 
explain injustice to be a violation of property. This proposition is, 
indeed, nothing but a more imperfect definition. It is the same case 



THE ACADEMICAL PHILOSOPHY 419 

with all those pretended syllogistical reasonings, which may be found 
in every other branch of learning, except the sciences of quantity 
and number; and these may safely, I think, be pronounced the only 
proper objects of knowledge and demonstration. 

All other enquiries of men regard only matter of fact and exist- 
ence; and these are evidently incapable of demonstration. What- 
ever is may not be. No negation of a fact can involve a contradiction. 
The non-existence of any being, without exception, is as clear and 
distinct an idea as its existence. The proposition, which affirms it 
not to be, however false, is no less conceivable and intelligible, than 
that which affirms it to be. The case is different with the sciences, 
properly so called. Every proposition, which is not true, is there 
confused and unintelligible. That the cube root of 64 is equal to 
the half of 10, is a false proposition, and can never be distinctly 
conceived. But that Caesar, or the angel Gabriel, or any being never 
existed, may be a false proposition, but still is perfectly conceivable, 
and implies no contradiction. 

The existence, therefore, of any being can only be proved by argu- 
ments from its cause or its effect; and these arguments are founded 
entirely on experience. If we reason a priori, anything may appear 
able to produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught 
we know, extinguish the sun; or the wish of a man control the 
planets in their orbits. It is only experience, which teaches us the 
nature and bounds of cause and effect, and enables us to infer the 
existence of one object from that of another 4 . Such is the foundation 
of moral reasoning, which forms the greater part of human knowl- 
edge, and is the source of all human action and behaviour. 

Moral reasonings are either concerning particular or general facts. 
All deliberations in life regard the former; as also all disquisitions 
in history, chronology, geography, and astronomy. 

The sciences, which treat of general facts, are politics, natural 
philosophy, physic, chemistry, &c. where the qualities, causes and 
effects of a whole species of objects are enquired into. 

4 That impious maxim of the ancient philosophy, Ex nihilo, nihil fit, by which the 
creation of matter was excluded, ceases to be a maxim, according to this philosophy. 
Not only the will of the supreme Being may create matter; but, for aught we know 
a priori, the will of any other being might create it, or any other cause, that the most 
whimsical imagination can assign. 



420 DAVID HUME 

Divinity or Theology, as it proves the existence of a Deity, and 
the immortality of souls, is composed partly of reasonings concern- 
ing particular, partly concerning general facts. It has a foundation 
in reason, so far as it is supported by experience. But its best and 
most solid foundation is faith and divine revelation. 

Morals and criticism are not so properly objects of the understand- 
ing as of taste and sentiment. Beauty, whether moral or natural, 
is felt, more properly than perceived. Or if we reason concerning it, 
and endeavour to fix its standard, we regard a new fact, to wit, the 
general tastes of mankind, or some such fact, which may be the 
object of reasoning and enquiry. 

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what 
havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of 
divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it con- 
tain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. 
Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of 
fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can 
contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. 






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